Echocardiograms are a non-invasive tool to evaluate heart function. Reflected sound waves (ultrasound) emitted by a transducer create an “echo” that produces a moving picture of the heart, allowing the cardiologist to observe the size and shape of the heart’s chambers and detect any damage or defects in the walls or valves.
In transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), the ultrasound probe is built into the end of an endoscope, which is inserted into the esophagus, where it is closer to the heart and can create a better image. Electrodes are affixed to the chest as with a normal cardiac ultrasound. The patient’s throat is numbed and the probe, a thin tube, is guided down the throat while the patient is under mild sedation. When the ultrasound is completed the probe is removed, and the patient can go home once the sedation has worn off.