An echocardiogram is a noninvasive test that uses sound waves (ultrasound) to evaluate how well the muscle and valves of the heart are working and take an image of what is happening. It can be used to help detect cardiac abnormalities.
There is no preparation needed before arriving for your appointment.
There is no discomfort associated with the test. A technician applies conductive gel to the chest and a device called a transducer moves over the ribs and transmits high-frequency sound waves. You may be asked to breathe in a certain way or to inhale a medication that dilates the blood vessels. As the transducer picks up echoes of the sound waves, it produces an image of the internal structures of the heart. The test will take from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the patient's condition and the type of echo needed.
Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)
TEE is a specialized form of echocardiography that allows more resolution of the heart structures including the chambers, valves, and vessels. This helps the doctor evaluate any congenital defects, heart blood clots, heart valve disease, or an improperly functioning artificial valve. This test is more advanced than a regular echocardiography because it is more accurate in detecting structural heart disease.
Do not eat or drink for 8 hours before the test. Consult your doctor if you are taking any medications or are diabetic. Do not smoke at least 6 hours before the test. Since you will be given a sedative during the test, you will need someone who can drive you home. It is important that you inform your doctor if you are pregnant, have a problem swallowing, have conditions with your esophagus or stomach, or if you have any medication allergies.
The test takes about 60-90 minutes. Mild sedation will be given to help you relax. A monitor will be placed on the finger so the amount of oxygen in the blood can be monitored. A transducer the size of a finger is mounted on a flexible tube that is easily advanced into the person’s throat. Mild sedation and anesthesia spray is used to numb the throat. After you take several deep breaths and are relaxed, the probe gets advanced through your mouth into the esophagus (food pipe) which lies immediately next to the heart in the chest cavity. Slight gagging may occur and suctioning may be used to decrease the secretions in the mouth and throat.
After the Test
You will be closely monitored for approximately 30 minutes and possibly longer until the sedation has worn off. You will not be able to drive, work, or drink alcoholic beverages for 12-24 hours.
The doctor may be able to give you a preliminary report before you leave but if you are still drowsy from the sedative, they may discuss the results with you at a later time.
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