We know a standard echocardiogram or Echo is obtained by applying a transducer to the front of the chest. The ultrasound beam travels through the chest wall (skin, muscle, bone, tissue) and lungs to reach the heart. Because it travels through the front of the chest or thorax.
Sometimes, closely positioned ribs, obesity and emphysema may create technical difficulties by limiting the transmission of the ultrasound beams to and from the heart. In such cases, your physician may select to get a transesophageal echo (TEE), where the echo transducer is placed in the esophagus or food pipe that connects the mouth to the stomach. Since the esophagus sits behind the heart, the echo beam does not have to travel through the front of the chest, avoiding many of the obstacles described above. In other words, it offers a much clearer image of the heart, particularly, the back structures, such as the left atrium, which may not be seen as well by a standard echo taken from the front of the heart.
Procedure: 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 TEE echo transducer is much smaller than the standard Echo equipment and is positioned at the end of a flexible tube (similar to the tube used to examine the stomach during endoscopy). The tube transfers the images from the transducer to the Echo monitor.
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