Transoesophageal Echocardiography (TOE)
What is Transoesophageal Echocardiography?
Transoesophageal echocardiography or echocardiogram is an ultrasound examination of your heart via an endoscope (a long, thin, flexible instrument) placed inside your oesophagus or food pipe. The technology is similar to transthoracic echocardiography, in which high frequency sound waves are used to create a moving picture of your heart.
When is a Transoesophageal Echocardiography Required?
The oesophagus runs close behind the back of the heart, and this position allows Cardiologists an opportunity to capture very clear, close-up images of the inside of the heart. Transoesophageal echocardiography is often used to gain close-up views of the heart valves, as well as to check for blood clots prior to cardiac ablation procedures.
How do I Prepare?
The test will be performed as an inpatient and will require admission into hospital (usually as a day procedure). You will be required to fast for at least 6 hours prior to the procedure.
Your Cardiologist will speak to you about your usual medications, as some may be withheld until after your procedure. If you are on Warfarin you may be required to check your INR level before the procedure to ensure that it is not too high.
What Should I Expect?
A Cardiologist will be perform the transoesophageal echo along with an anaesthetist and nursing team.
An IV line will be placed in your arm and medications given to put you into a light sleep. Your electrocardiogram (ECG), oxygen levels and other vital signs will be monitored during and after the procedure. You will be lying down during the test, and a mouth guard may be inserted to protect your teeth.
The probe will then be guided into your mouth while the Cardiologist gently presses your tongue out of the way. You may be asked to swallow to help move the probe down your oesophagus. The procedure usually takes between 10 and 20 minutes.
For several hours after the test you may feel sleepy and may have a dry or sore throat. You will remain in hospital until you are fully alert and have had something to eat and drink. Because you will have been given sedative medication and you will not be permitted to drive for 24-hours after the procedure, you will need someone to take you home from hospital.
Transoesophageal Echocardiography Results
A report will be sent to your referring Doctor, usually within 24-hours. You will need to contact them to get your results and find out if you require any follow up tests or treatment.
Most people will just experience a sore throat for 1-2 days post procedure, however, as transoesophageal echo is an invasive procedure there are some risks. These include breathing problems, damage to the oesophagus, drug reactions and minor bleeding.