A trans-esophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is an ultrasound of the heart that is performed from inside the esophagus (food pipe). Most commonly, heart ultrasounds (echocardiograms) are performed by placing the ultrasound probe on the skin of the chest wall over the heart and recording images. This is also called trans-thoracic echocardiogram or surface echocardiogram. However, in certain medical conditions when higher resolution and additional viewing angles of the heart are needed, a TEE is performed for diagnostic purposes.
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The procedure involves moderate sedation usually performed by an anesthesiologist. A mouth guard is placed in the mouth to protect the patient’s teeth, and while the patient is asleep, the TEE probe is inserted into the food pipe and stomach and images of the heart are obtained. The probe and mouth guard are then removed and patient awakened. The procedure – including recovery from anesthesia – usually takes about one hour and the patient can generally be discharged home later the same day.
Significant complications from the procedure are rare and occur in less than 1% of cases. Patients can commonly expect some temporary throat discomfort that will resolve in a day or two.
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