Transoesophageal echocardiography (TOE)

A Transoesophageal Echocardiography (TOE) is an ultrasound that produces high quality multidimensional images of the heart. It is used to perform diagnostics and during surgery.

The way this TOE is performed involves placing a narrow tube called a probe in to the oesophagus, once it is near the heart it can produce clear, real-time images that let your doctor see your heart muscles and valves and determine how it all looks.

How to prepare

You will need to prepare for your TOE. The guidelines are to not eat or drink anything from 4-6 hours prior to the test. Make sure your referring consultant is aware of any medication you are taking as it could affect you having the test.

During the Transoesophageal Echocardiography

The back of your throat will be numbed or have a freezing anaesthetic spray to make you more comfortable. It is also possible to be mildly sedated during this test. You will also be asked to lie on your left side and then a probe will be passed through your oesophagus. You will be able to swallow throughout. The procedure can be uncomfortable for some patients but it is not painful. Once the probe is in the correct position, a collection of high-resolution pictures will be taken of the heart.

After the outpatient procedure, you will be allowed to recover and can go home the same day, it is recommended that you ask a friend or family member to assist you home.

The results are available straight away and your doctor will review them with you at a convenient time for both of you, usually in a follow up appointment.

Are there side effects?

It is common for small procedures to have side effects and a TOE is no different. Here are some of the side affects you may experience:

  • Slight damage or tear to the oesophagus (rare)

  • Allergic reaction to the sedation or anaesthetic

  • Small risk to damage of teeth

  • Mild bruising

The risks are not life threatening and usually the procedure is very straight forward and patients are completely fine afterwards. Your consultant will run through everything with you in complete detail beforehand but if you are still unsure then do not hesitate to keep asking!

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.