Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) is a medical test that uses ultrasound imaging to evaluate the structure and function of the heart. The test involves inserting a small, flexible tube called an endoscope into the esophagus, which is located behind the heart. The endoscope contains a tiny ultrasound transducer that emits sound waves and creates images of the heart.
During a TEE, the patient is sedated and the endoscope is inserted through the mouth and down the throat. The endoscope is positioned behind the heart and the ultrasound images are captured. TEE is often used when a traditional echocardiogram, which is performed on the chest, does not provide sufficient imaging of the heart.
TEE is used to evaluate the heart in a variety of clinical settings, including:
- Diagnosis of heart disease: TEE can detect heart valve abnormalities, such as regurgitation or stenosis, and can evaluate the function of the heart’s chambers and blood flow.
- Assessment of heart function during surgery: TEE is often used during cardiac surgery to monitor heart function and blood flow, as well as to guide the placement of surgical instruments.
- Detection of blood clots: TEE can detect the presence of blood clots in the heart, particularly in patients with atrial fibrillation or a history of stroke.
- Evaluation of infective endocarditis: TEE is often used to diagnose infective endocarditis, a bacterial infection of the heart’s valves or lining.
TEE is generally safe, but as with any medical test, there are potential risks associated with the procedure. These risks include bleeding, infection, and adverse reactions to sedation. Patients should discuss the risks and benefits of TEE with their healthcare provider before undergoing the procedure.
Overall, TEE is a valuable diagnostic tool for evaluating heart function and detecting heart disease. The test is particularly useful in patients with difficult-to-image hearts or those undergoing cardiac surgery. TEE provides detailed, real-time imaging of the heart and can help guide treatment decisions and improve patient outcomes.