Echocardiography uses sound waves (ultrasound) to make images of the heart. In transesophageal echocardiography, the ultrasound probe is passed down the throat in the esophagus, or food pipe. The esophagus sits very close to the heart. This method allows for clearer images of the heart than other methods.

Reasons for Procedure

This test is done to look for problems of the heart, including:

  • Enlarged heart
  • Thickening of the heart walls
  • Heart valve malfunction
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Other conditions

Abnormal Heart Walls

Heart wall disease
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Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. You will be given light sedation for the procedure. Your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Bleeding or damage to the throat or esophagus

You may be at higher risk for complications if you:

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • Avoid alcohol for several days before the procedure. Alcohol may interfere with the type of sedative used.
  • Do not eat or drink for 4-8 hours before the procedure.


You will be given a mild sedative through an IV. You will be sleepy throughout the procedure. A topical anesthetic may also be applied to the back of the throat. This will numb the throat.

Description of the Procedure

You will be asked to lie on your side in a hospital gown. The ultrasound probe will be slid down your throat and into the esophagus until it is near the heart. The device will create active images of the heart. When the imaging is done, the probe will be taken out.

How Long Will It Take?

15-30 minutes

Will It Hurt?

There may be some mild discomfort during the procedure. Most patients sleep through the procedure and remember very little of it. Your throat may be sore for a few days.

Post-procedure Care

You will need a ride home from the procedure. Do not eat or drink until the numbness in your throat wears off. This will keep you from inhaling food or drink into the lungs. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.

Talk to your doctor about the results of the test.

Call Your Doctor

After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Sore throat does not subside or worsens
  • Pain in the throat or chest develops
  • Difficulty breathing

In case of an emergency, CALL 911.