TEE is a test performed to evaluate the overall health of your heart’s valves and chambers, determine the presence of many types of heart disease, and/or assess the effectiveness of valve surgery.

Similar to an echocardiogram, which produces a graphic outline of the heart’s movement using high-frequency sound waves, a transesophageal echocardiogram provides a closer look at the heart’s valves without interference from the lungs or ribs. TEE is performed when a standard echo test is not sufficient, or your doctor needs a closer look at your heart.

How is a TEE performed?

First, several electrodes, or flat sticky patches, are placed on your chest. These patches are attached to the echocardiogram monitor (EKG) that monitors your heart’s electrical activity. A blood pressure cuff and a small clip connected to a pulse oximeter is attached to your arm and finger to monitor your blood pressure and the oxygen level in your blood. Your throat will then be numbed with an anesthetic spray, or a pain relieving medication that will allow for a painless procedure. Then, sedatives will be administered through an IV by your anesthesiologist. You will begin to feel drowsy at this point. Next, a thin endoscope will be placed in your mouth and down your throat to the esophagus. You may be asked to swallow, to help guide the endoscope down. This part of the procedure may be uncomfortable, but it will not interfere with your breathing. Once the probe is in place, it takes images of the heart at various angles. As with all similar procedures, your anesthesiologist will be monitoring your blood pressure, breathing and oxygen level in your blood.

Can I eat or drink the day of the test?

You may not eat or drink anything for at least 6 hours prior to the test, as doing so may complicate the test or the sedation. Water may be permitted up to about 2 hours before the test. Your doctor will go over these instructions with you.

Is the process painful?

Because you will be sedated, you will not be fully aware during the test, and will be numbed, therefore feeling no pain. Your anesthesiologist will keep you as comfortable as possible throughout the process.

How long does the TEE procedure take?

The entire process should take about 90 minutes. After you have recovered from the sedative you receive, you will be free to go home. However, you WILL need someone to drive you home following the test, as you will have been sedated and not ready to operate machinery.

Is TEE safe?

TEE is a relatively common and generally safe procedure. However, as with many diagnostic tests and procedures, complications or side effects may occur. In rare cases, patients may experience breathing problems, abnormal heart rate, minor bleeding, or reactions to the sedative. More commonly, your throat may feel temporarily sore or numb following the test, due to the presence of the transducer in your throat. Your doctor and anesthesiologist will discuss the risks and benefits with you prior to operating.

How soon will I get the results?

Your doctor will have the results immediately following the test. However, he or she may want to review it before your consultation to discuss the results. You may also be drowsy from the sedation following the procedure, and not ready to be explained the final report. A conference will be set up for a later date.