Transesophageal Echocardiography

What is transesophageal echocardiography?

Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to make detailed pictures of your heart and the arteries that lead to and from it. An echo transducer that produces sound waves is attached to a thin tube that passes through your mouth, down your throat and into your esophagus.

The sound waves sent to your heart by the probe in your esophagus are translated into pictures on a video screen. Because the esophagus is so close to the upper chambers of the heart, very clear images of those heart structures and valves can be obtained.

Why do people have TEE?

Doctors often use TEE when they need more detail than a standard echocardiogram can give them.

Doctors also may use TEE if you have a thick chest wall, are obese, have bandages on your chest, or are using a ventilator to help you breathe. 

TEE is often used to provide information during surgery to repair heart valves, a tear in the aorta, or congenital heart lesions. It’s also used during surgical treatment for endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the inner lining of the heart and valves.

What are the risks of TEE?

The few risks of TEE involve passing the probe from your mouth down into your throat and esophagus. Medicines before the test help make you calm and numb your throat, but you may feel like gagging. You may also have a sore throat for a day or two after the test. In very rare cases, TEE causes the esophagus to bleed.

How do I prepare for TEE?

Check with your doctor. He or she may ask you not to have alcoholic drinks for a few days before the test, and not to eat or drink anything for at least 4 to 6 hours before TEE. Because you receive a sedative to help you stay calm, someone should drive you home after the test.

What should I watch for?

If your sore throat gets worse or doesn’t go away after a few days, call your doctor.

Heart Services Are Nearby

If you have any symptoms of heart attack or stroke, call 911. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. EMTs can begin life-saving care immediately before you reach the hospital.

For more information, contact your primary care provider or Traverse Heart and Vascular at 800-637-4033.