Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE) is a tool that is used to project images of the heart. Many different diagnostic tools show pictures of the heart. The difference between TEE and other tools is that it shows a much clearer image of the heart and allows the doctors to see the muscles, blood vessels, and chambers. Most other diagnostic tools use X-rays or a catheter, but TEE looks into the heart through the esophagus. No one likes having anything down there throat. The process is very uncomfortable, but the results are great. Just by having this test, the doctor will be able to as sess your heart health and give you treatment for anything that could lead to cardiovascular disease.
A normal echocardiogram uses ultrasound to view the heart. A transducer is a device used to carry out the ultrasound. There are four different types of ultrasounds. All of them show an image of the heart; they just do it in different ways. Sometimes echocardiograms are done in conjunction with other tests like an EKG or a stress test. When you are suffering from heart-related symptoms, it is important the doctor figure out what the problem is and what is causing the problem. An echocardiogram is not necessarily a preventative method test. They are only done when you show symptoms. It is unprofessional for a doctor to expose you to ultrasound waves unnecessarily.
Why Have a TEE
There are several reasons why a doctor will request a TEE. One reason is to check for blood clots or other unusual masses in the upper chambers of the heart. Valve problems are also assessed. The doctor looks at whether or not the valves are functioning properly. There are four total valves, but a TEE looks at the valves that separate the upper chambers of the heart from the lower chambers of the heart. TEE is also useful when you have other functional issues that may prevent you from being able to have a normal echocardiogram. Obesity, thick chest walls, and the use of ventilators are a few issues that make a normal echocardiogram difficult to do. One of the last functions of a TEE is to monitor the heart during surgery.
A TEE takes about an hour to complete. You are not put under general anesthesia, but you are given medicine that calms you down. Anyone can be nervous about having a tube put down their throat, but the medicine helps with that anxiety. The doctor also sprays your throat with numbing spray. Once the spray takes effect, you will not be able to feel your throat, and you also will not be able to feel the tube going into the esophagus. Electrodes are put on the chest. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiogram which records the heartbeat. The next step is the placement of the tube into the mouth and down the throat. During this process, the doctor will ask you to swallow to help the tube go down. The transducer is put on the tube and sends sound waves which project images of the heart. This part takes up to 15 minutes. Once the test is over, the doctor removes everything and gives you time to recover from the sedation. Once you are ready, you can go home.
There are few risks during the test. The biggest risk is esophageal bleeding. It is possible for the esophagus to scratch the throat and make it bleed. This risk is rare. After the test, your throat will be sore. You may also be hoarse. The soreness and hoarseness should go away in a couple of days. It does take time for the throat numbness to wear off. You will have some trouble swallowing because of the pain and numbness. It is best not to run and get chicken wings to eat. You may have to eat something soft until you feel better. It is important to stay away from alcoholic beverages as well.
After the doctor looks at the results and interprets them, they will bring you in to talk about them with you. If the TEE is abnormal, the doctor will look into treatment options. Abnormalities can be a result of infections, cancer, and valve issues. Your treatment will be dependent upon the problem the doctor finds. You may even need extra testing. Getting an early diagnosis will prevent the heart failure and heart attack.
Transesophageal Echocardiography is not always your first option when it comes to diagnostic tests for the heart, but it is a good option, especially when the doctor suspects certain heart problems. You may be concerned about someone looking at your heart through your throat, but you will not even be able to feel it. This test can prevent serious cardiovascular issues. Do not let fear keep you from getting the testing you need. It could save your life.
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