Transthoracic Echocardiography & Transoesophageal Echocardiography

What is Transthoracic Echocardiography?

An echocardiogram is a cardiac ultrasound scan which allows your cardiologist to assess the strength of cardiac contraction and allow visual assessment of the heart valves. It is non-invasive, entirely safe and can be carried out by a cardiologist or trained technician.

How is it carried out?Echocardiogram 1

Electrodes are placed on the chest and then you are asked to lie on the left hand side with your left arm behind your head. The test is carries out using an ultrasound transducer which is placed in several points over the chest wall. The procedure is not painful, but pressure is exerted whilst images are being acquired and some patients find this uncomfortable.

Preparation before the procedure

You will be asked to expose your chest, and several areas may require shving to allow the electrodes to stick. Please avoid the use of lotions or oils. A hospital gown is provided, if required. The test itself takes around 30 minutes.

What is Transoesophageal Echocardiography?

A transoesophageal echocardiogram is performed less commonly. It is used to obtain more detailed images of the heart valves by using a specialised probe which is placed in the oesophagus (or gullet).

How is it carried out?

The patient is made to lie on the left side. A sedative is given through an intravenous (IV) line to help in relaxation and the throat is sprayed with an anesthetic to “numb” it. The tube goes down the esophagus the same way as swallowed food. Therefore, it is important that the patient swallow the tube rather than gag on it.The heart rate, blood pressure and breathing are monitored during the procedure. Oxygen is given as a preventive measure and suction is used, as needed.


What do I need to know?

  • Do not eat or drink for six hours. This will minimize the risk of vomiting and aspirating during the procedure.
  • Medications prescribed by your doctor may be taken with sips of water, if you are not instructed to hold them.
  • You will need a member of family or friend to be with you after the procedure in order to take you home
  • Be sure to notify the doctor or nurse if you have any allergies, or if you have any difficulty in swallowing or problems with your mouth, esophagus or stomach.
  • Dentures should be removed.

What are the risks?

A traneosophageal echocardiogram is safe procedure. There is a very small risk of causing damage to the gullet or stomach . There is also the possibility of causing a disturbance in heart rhythm and breathing, but these are monitored very closely during the procedure.