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Transesophageal Echocardiogram

What is a Transesophageal Echocardiogram?

A transesophageal echocardiogram is a special ultrasound test that uses sound waves to take pictures of the heart. This type of echo can take clearer pictures of the heart than regular ultrasound especially in older children and adults. It is also used during heart operations to help guide the surgeon. There is no known risk from ultrasound exposure and no radiation exposure is involved.

How is it done?

The study is done by passing a special tube down the throat into the esophagus or food pipe. The end of this tube is placed near the heart which allows very clear, detailed pictures to be taken. In children, this study is most often done under general anesthesia. In teenagers and adults, a local anesthetic is sprayed on the throat to prevent gagging. An IV is also started and IV sedation is given before the tube is passed.

How do I prepare for it?

General anesthesia and IV sedation can only be given on an empty stomach. If you or your child is scheduled for this type of study, please follow these directions:

  • No solid food for 6 hours before the test. Milk and formula are considered solid food.
  • Clear liquids like water, pop, clear broth can be given until 2 hours before the test.
  • Nothing to eat or drink during the three hours before the test. 

A transesophageal echo is performed by a doctor specializing in the care of patients with heart disease. During the test, the patient's heart rate, heart rhythm, breathing, and blood pressure are carefully monitored. The study takes about 30 minutes and the pictures taken of the heart are recorded for later review.

What happens after the test?

After the study is completed, and the effects of the sedation have worn off, the results of the test will be discussed with the family. If general anesthesia has been used, the patient will be monitored in the recovery room until the effects of the medicines are gone.


2006: Information reviewed and approved by Laura Bell, RN, MSN, PNP Pediatric Cardiac Surgery and Lynda Dettling RN, BSN.


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