The Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE)

Minimally invasive, gentle - via heart catheter

Time to read: 2 Min.
Tags: TEE
Published in: Diagnostics at 02/08/2021

The ultrasound examination of the heart through the gullet, the oesophagus is actually a gastroscopy. Under local anaesthesia or minor anaesthesia, the ultrasound probe is inserted into the oesophagus. Since the oesophagus runs directly behind the heart, the individual structures of the heart can be visualised much better than in the examination through the chest wall (TTE). A frequent question is the search for clots in the heart or in the case of heart or heart valve defects. The aorta can also be assessed.

How does a transoesophageal examination work?

For transoesophageal echocardiography (swallow echo), the upper digestive tract must be free of food debris. Therefore, they should be fasting on the day of the examination. You must not consume any liquids or food until at least 6 hours before the examination. The necessary intake of medication with a small sip of water is permitted. If you suffer from diabetes, please discuss the more detailed preparations in advance with Dr Olaf Franzen.

What preparations are necessary for a TEE?

For the examination, you will usually be given a sedative in a vein in your arm and a local anaesthetic for the throat. Then the ultrasound probe is inserted through the mouth into the oesophagus. The examination allows the heart to be viewed from inside the chest. Once the probe is in place, you will feel no more than a slight sensation of pressure in your throat or chest. The examination is done in the left-sided position and takes about 15-20 minutes. You will be able to breathe normally throughout the examination. Transoesophageal echocardiography does not cause any pain.

What should I do after the examination?

After receiving sedative medication, you should not drive a vehicle or operate machinery the same day after the examination. You should also not sign any legal documents. Do not eat or drink until the numbness in your throat has completely disappeared. If you experience abdominal pain or any other disturbance of well-being (e.g. dizziness, nausea, vomiting) after the examination, inform us immediately.

What risks are associated with this examination?

Although transoesophageal echocardiography is a low-complication method and is performed in our Heart Center in Zurich. Complications can occur in very rare cases, as:

  • Very rare: injuries to the oesophagus in the presence of existing changes (oesophageal varices, diverticula, etc.
  • Very rarely: bleeding or bleeding tendency when taking blood-thinning medication
  • Extremely rare: hypersensitivity reactions to the sedation agent used
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