An echocardiogram (“echo”) is a test that produces an image of the heart by using harmless high-frequency ultrasound waves. A transesophageal echocardiogram, or TEE echo, allows your doctor to record images of your heart from inside your esophagus (the tube that leads from your throat to your stomach).

In this test, a long narrow tube is inserted into your mouth and down your esophagus. A device called a transducer is attached to the end of the tube. It sends out ultrasound waves. These ultrasound waves bounce off the heart and return to the transducer. The ultra­sound

ultra­sound waves are then transmitted to a computer which uses the wave pattern to create images of your heart.


Images of the heart are shown on a monitor that looks like a TV screen. Images also can be recorded on videotape or a digital recording for your doctor to review.

monitor shows an image of the heart


A TEE echo may be done when clearer images of your heart are needed. Since the esophagus lies behind the heart, a TEE echo may produce clearer images of areas of the heart that may be difficult to see.

  • if there are problems with any of the heart valves
  • if there is infection in any of the heart valves
  • if there are any heart defects
  • if there is a tear in the lining of the aorta (large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body)
  • if blood clots are present


  • Do not eat or drink liquids for 6 hours before the test.
  • Tell your doctor about all the medications you take, especially medications for ulcers or a hiatal hernia.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take your usual medications before your test. If you can take your medications, take them with a sip of water only.
  • Tell your doctor if you have trouble swallowing.
  • Tell your doctor if you have allergies to any medications, especially the type of medications that may help you relax (sedatives).
  • Remove dentures or any other dental prosthesis from your mouth.
  • Have someone drive you home from the hospital, doctor’s office or clinic.
  • Be sure to discuss any questions or concerns you have with your doctor, nurse or the specially trained
  • technologists

An echocardiogram may be performed in a doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, outpatient center or diagnostic laboratory. The test is performed by a specially trained and registered technologist.

When you arrive for your test, you will be asked to put on a hospital gown. You may be given medication through an IV tube to help you relax.

Your throat may be sprayed with an anesthetic to numb it before the tube is inserted.


The actual test may take about 15 minutes. However, you should allow about two hours from the time you check into the hospital or clinic until the time you can go home.


Once you are relaxed, your doctor will gently insert the tube into your mouth. You will be asked to swallow. As you swallow, the tube will slowly move into your esophagus. It is normal to gag when the tube is first placed in your throat, but the urge to gag will go away. You should not feel any pain during this procedure.

Once the tube (with the transducer at the tip) is placed in the esophagus, images of the heart can be seen. By manipulating the transducer in various directions, a variety of structures can be visualized, and images can then be recorded


As this test is being done, your heart rate and blood pressure will be monitored. Secretions will be cleared

from your mouth. Oxygen may be given if it is needed.



Since your throat is likely to be numb from the anesthetic, you should not eat or drink for at least one hour after you go home. When your throat is no longer numb (after about one hour), you may drink cold liquids or use lozenges to soothe your throat.

Follow any instructions you are given. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to talk to your doctor or nurse.


  • If you experience any of the following symptoms, let your doctor know right away:
  • trouble swallowing
  • stiff neck
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • internal pain
  • bleeding

Your doctor may discuss the test results with you at the time of your appointment, or you may be asked to return at a later date.

It is normal to feel anxious about having heart tests. But it is important to understand that having a TEE echo provides invaluable information that cannot be obtained by any other technique. Having this test takes the burden of guesswork off you and your doctor. Because you have had this test, you know that any advice about treatment is based on facts discovered during your test.

You may be advised to make some changes in the way you live to reduce the risk of future health problems. A non-surgical treatment may be recommended, or you may be advised to have surgery.

Whatever your doctor’s recommendation, you can rest assured that it is based on the best possible information.