A transesophageal echocardiogram (TOE) is a specialised imaging test that provides detailed images of the heart using ultrasound technology. Unlike a standard echocardiogram, a TEE involves inserting a small, flexible probe called a transducer into the oesophagus (the muscular tube connecting the throat to the stomach) to obtain clearer and closer images of the heart structures.
During a TOE procedure, you will be gently sedated, and the transducer will be inserted through your mouth and guided down your throat into the oesophagus. The transducer emits ultrasound waves that create real-time images of your heart chambers, valves, and blood flow patterns.
The advantage of a TOE is that the proximity of the oesophagus to the heart allows for more detailed imaging, particularly for structures that are challenging to visualize with a regular echocardiogram. A TOE provides clearer views of the heart's posterior structures, including the backside of the heart valves or the upper chambers (atria) that are not easily seen from the chest.
A TOE is commonly used to evaluate various heart conditions, such as:
Assessing valve abnormalities: TOE helps assess the structure and function of heart valves, identifying issues like narrowing or leaking.
Detecting blood clots: TOE can identify blood clots in the heart, particularly in the left atrial appendage, which is important for assessing stroke risk and guiding treatment decisions.
Identifying cardiac sources of emboli: TOE helps identify potential sources of clots or debris that could cause a stroke if they travel to other parts of the body.
Diagnosing infective endocarditis: TOE aids in the diagnosis and monitoring of infective endocarditis, an infection of the heart valves or inner lining.
Evaluating structural abnormalities: TOE detects congenital heart defects, assesses the size and function of heart chambers, and evaluates abnormalities such as septal defects or tumours.
TEE is a safe procedure, but there are potential risks and complications to consider, including mild discomfort, throat irritation, and a small risk of bleeding or injury to the oesophagus. The procedure is typically performed in a hospital or specialized cardiac centre under the guidance of a cardiologist or cardiac imaging specialist who will prioritize your comfort and safety throughout the process.
The recovery time following a transesophageal echocardiogram (TOE) is typically quite short. After the procedure, you may experience some mild discomfort or a scratchy sensation in your throat for a few hours. Over-the-counter pain relievers or throat lozenges can help alleviate this discomfort.
In most cases, you will be observed for a brief period after the procedure to ensure there are no immediate complications. Once you are stable and there are no concerns, you will be able to return home on the same day.
The exact duration of your recovery may vary depending on individual factors and any additional procedures performed alongside the TOE. However, the majority of individuals are able to resume their normal activities within a few hours to a day after the procedure.
It's important to follow any specific instructions provided by your healthcare provider regarding diet, medications, and any restrictions on activities during your recovery. If you have any persistent or worsening symptoms or any concerns throughout your recovery, it's advisable to contact your healthcare provider for guidance and support.
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Average procedure duration 20 minutes
Covered by health insurance? Yes
Can I pay privately? Yes
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