An echocardiogram (often called “echo”) is a graphic outline of the heart’s movement, valves and chambers. During the transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) test, an ultrasound transducer (which produces high frequency sound waves) provides pictures of the heart’s valves and chambers and helps the physician evaluate the pumping action of the heart. The test is performed within a hospital setting under sedation.
The ultrasound transducer is positioned on an endoscope (a long, thin, flexible instrument about 1/2 inch in diameter). The endoscope is placed into your mouth and passed into your esophagus (the “food pipe” leading from your mouth into your stomach) to provide a close look at your heart’s valves and chambers without interference from the ribs or lungs.
Your doctor may use the TEE to:
- Assess the overall function of your heart’s chambers and valves
- Evaluate the effectiveness of medical or surgical treatments
- Evaluate abnormalities of the left atrium
- Determine the presence of many types of heart disease (such as valvular heart disease, myocardial or pericardial disease, possible valve infection, cardiac masses & congenital heart disease)
The detailed pictures provided by TEE can help doctors see:
- The size of your heart and how thick its walls are.
- How well your heart is pumping.
- If there is abnormal tissue around your heart valves that could indicate bacterial, viral or fungal infections, or cancer.
- If blood is leaking backward through your heart valves (regurgitation) or if your valves are narrowed or blocked (stenosis).
- If blood clots are in the chambers of your heart, in particular the upper chamber, for example after a stroke.