Transoesophageal Echocardiogram

What is a Transoesophageal Echocardiogram?

A Transoesophageal Echo (TOE) is an ultrasound examination that produces detailed pictures of your heart. The test is performed by the cardiologist (heart specialist) with the assistance of an anaesthetist (doctor specializing in anaesthesia) and nursing staff.

How do I prepare for it?

No food or drink for 6 hours before the test (medications may be taken with sips of water).
Please ensure that somebody accompanies you to the test as you will be unable to drive for the remainder of the day (because of sedation).
Please notify the doctor if you have any allergies.
Please notify the doctor if you have any difficulty swallowing or problems with your mouth, oesophagus (gullet) or stomach.
Please bring a list of all your current medications.
Please notify the medical team if you have any dentures or removeable plates etc.

How is it done?

A small intravenous cannula (needle) is inserted into the vein (usually the back of your hand). The anaesthetist will spray a numbing medicine onto the back of your throat and administer sedation via the cannula to make you sleepy.
Oxygen is given as a precaution. When you are adequately relaxed, a flexible tube (similar to the tube used to examine the stomach during endoscopy), is passed down the throat into the oesophagus (food pipe) and stomach which lie behind the heart. The end of the tube contains an ultrasound probe, which images the heart and its valves in great detail.

How long will it take?

While you will approximately spend 2-4 hours in the cardiac unit, the actual procedure takes approximately 20-30 minutes. The remainder of the time is spent in preparation and recovery.

After the procedure . .

Do not eat or drink for 2 hours after the test (your mouth and throat will be numb during this time).
You may have a slightly sore throat after the procedure.
Do not drive or operate heavy or dangerous equipment for the remainder of the day (or minimum 12 hours).
Notify the doctor if you have any persistent bleeding, pain or fever.

What are the risks?

A transoesophageal echo is a relatively common and safe procedure with few complications. The most serious complication is trauma including perforation (puncture) of the oesophagus which occurs approximately 1 in every 10,000 cases. Other potential complications include breathing problems, rhythm disturbances, reactions to the medications and minor bleeding. In order to minimize these risks, trained staff are present during the procedure and will be monitoring your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing throughout.

If you have any further questions, please contact us at:

Queensland Cardiology
St Vincent’s Private Hospital Northside
North Medical Suites, Green Lifts Level 3,
627 Rode Road
Chermside Q 4032
(07) 3861 5522