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Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE) In Atlanta

Occasionally a very detailed picture of the heart is difficult to obtain using a standard echocardiogram study. This occurs because ultrasound is often scattered through bone, muscle, and lung tissue. TEE is a test in which an ultrasound probe is gently inserted into a patient’s esophagus and stomach to obtain a detailed picture of the heart from behind it. Because the ultrasound beam doesn’t have to pass through the chest wall, extremely accurate details of the heart structures are seen. TEE is especially useful for locating heart valve infections and for identifying the presence of a clot inside the chambers of the heart.

Patients receiving a transesophageal echocardiogram are instructed not to eat or drink anything for eight hours prior to the test. Prior to insertion of the ultrasound probe, a numbing spray is given to the back of the throat to minimize the gag reflex. Then mild to moderate sedation with intravenous medications is given for patient comfort. The test generally takes about 30 minutes. Although this procedure is very safe, there is a small risk of minor throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and heart rate slowing. Perforation or tear of the esophagus is extremely rare.