A transoesophageal echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound of the heart and blood vessels.
The procedure is done via a tube inserted into the oesophagus (the gullet - which carries food to your stomach).
What is it used for?
A TOE helps in diagnosing problems in many areas of the heart, such as: the presence of clots in the heart chambers, valve infections, heart defects, valve infections and problems with the aorta.
By viewing the heart this way, doctors can see certain structures more easily. The procedure is also of value in those patients who are very overweight or have lung disease or chest wall abnormalities, resulting in poor images obtained from the chest wall.
The back of your throat is sprayed with anaesthetic so you will not be uncomfortable. You may also be given some light sedation through a vein in your arm.
A long tube is passed down the throat and into the oesophagus while you are on your left side. You will be asked to swallow as the tube is passed down. When the tube is inside the oesophagus the doctor will look at the heart structures on a video screen.
This test takes 15 minutes. You will need to fast for four hours beforehand, and about two hours afterwards.
After the procedure
The nurse will give you a sip of water to make sure the anaesthetic has worn off, before giving you a meal. Your nurse will check your blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate at regular intervals, to make sure your recovery is normal.
This information was first published in You and Your Heart - an education booklet for patients, families and friends. © 2006 Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service