What is a Transoesophageal Echocardiogram (TOE)?
A Transoesophageal Echocardiogram (TOE) test is a safe and effective procedure, similar to a regular Echocardiogram Test; doctors use that to look at your heart’s chambers and valves. The test is performed using an ultrasound transducer, or probe, placed into the back of the throat onto the Oesophagus directly beside your heart. The search uses ultrasound technology to produce images of interior bodily structures using high-frequency sound waves.
The probe will be carefully lowered down to your upper right heart chamber (atrium) level after it is in your oesophagus. That is the probe’s position when the ultrasound images are taken. During the test, you will not be able to feel or hear the sound waves. To help your doctor assess your heart function, you may be given an IV injection of saline or contrast dye.
The procedure takes about 15 minutes; however, patients are generally counselled to plan on spending about an hour in the clinic for preparation and monitoring after the test. As noted, the test is very safe but somewhat invasive. A Transoesophageal Echocardiogram test will often include a sedative and/or a numbing solution for your throat and mouth. Your doctor may ask you to fast from food and water for several hours before the procedure. A TOE is generally painless, with very few side effects, some of which may include nausea or minor discomfort, dry throat and some mild bleeding from the mouth directly after that.
What a TOE shows
A Transoesophageal Echocardiogram is conducted by inserting a probe into the oesophagus against the chest wall. This is considered a more specialised test than a regular Echocardiogram Test. The investigation is placed much closer to your heart than a standard probe, providing a crisper and more thorough picture of the heart's anatomy. This is so the ultrasound waves can pass through the surrounding skin, fat, and muscle tissue without hitting the ribs or lungs. As a result, it's a better location for capturing realistic photographs of the heart’s chambers and valves as blood flows in and out.
When a TOE is used
There are many reasons your doctor might book you a Transoesophageal Echocardiogram (TOE) test. They are typically used to diagnose a problem or malformation within one of your heart valves and determine whether that valve can be repaired or replaced, such as:
- congenital heart disease
- aortic dissection
- blood clots
How to prepare for a TOE
A private cardiologist or technician typically performs a TOE as a day-case procedure in the hospital or testing facility.
Whilst you will receive instructions from your doctor upon booking the test, your doctor will also walk you through how to get ready for your procedure the day of. You maybe required to adhere to fasting requirements, including not eating or drinking for six hours or more before the procedure.
If you're taking anticoagulants (medicines that help your blood clot), such as heparin, clopidogrel, or warfarin, continue taking your regular medications and inform your doctor. They will tell you which medications might interfere with the procedure.
During the procedure, you will generally be awake and given a sedative.
This reduces anxiety and discomfort. The doctor will go over what to expect before, during, and after your treatment and any pain you may have. This is when you can pose any questions or concerns as to the testing procedure as well as any side effects that might be specific to you.
The test can be performed on patients in the operating room and intensive care unit, or a private Transoesophageal Echocardiogram test can be given in a hospital bed. The relative mobility of the testing equipment allows doctors to obtain critical diagnostic information without moving patients.