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Echocardiography (sometimes called an echo or an echocardiogram) is a type of ultrasound test that uses high-pitched sound waves to produce an image of the heart. The sound waves are sent through a device called a transducer and are reflected off the various structures of the heart. These echoes are converted into pictures of the heart that can be seen on a video monitor.

An echocardiogram is used to evaluate how well your heart chambers fill with blood and pump it to the rest of the body. Echocardiography can also be used to estimate the amount of blood pumped out of your left ventricle with each heartbeat. An echo also helps evaluate heart size and heart valve function.

It can help identify areas of poor blood flow in the heart, areas of heart muscle that are not contracting normally, previous injury to the heart muscle caused by impaired blood flow, or evidence of heart failure, especially in people with chest pain or a possible heart attack. In addition, echocardiography can identify a pericardial effusion and certain congenital heart defects.

Trans esophageal echo (TEE) is a special type of test in which the instrument that emits sound waves (transducer) is passed down the esophagus instead of being moved over the outside of the chest wall. TEE shows clearer pictures of your heart, because the transducer is located closer to the heart and because the lungs and bones of the chest wall do not interfere with the sound waves produced by the transducer. This test requires a sedative and anesthetic applied to the throat to ease discomfort.


    When you were referred by your physician for a radiological exam, you may have been told about certain instructions to be done prior to the exam, or when you were scheduling your appointment, the scheduler should have informed you about the preparations that should be done prior to your exam. If you did not or if you want a recheck, you can refer to the information listed below.

    Keep in mind that you may have been given some additional or different instructions, based on your own particular circumstances. If you have any questions, please call our hotline 16171 or (202) 3336-3310 (Mohandeseen), (202) 2417 5556 (Heliopolis) or (202) 2528 4888 (Maadi) to speak with a radiologist if you have any questions. It is best to call between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., Saturday through Thursday.


 You do not need any special preparation for Transthoracic echocardiography

If your are scheduled to have a transoesphageal echo, do not eat or drink for at least 6 hours before the test. Before TEE, you will be given a sedative.

Medications can be taken prior to the exam.

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The procedure

Transthoracic echocardiography:

    The procedure takes from 30 to 60 minutes.   

    You will need to lie on your back or on your left side on a bed or table. Small metal discs (electrodes) will be taped to your arms and legs to record your heart rate during the test. Then a small amount of gel will be rubbed on the left side of your chest to help improve the transmission of the sound waves.

    A small instrument (transducer) that looks like a microphone is pressed firmly against your chest and moved slowly back and forth. This instrument transmits sound waves into the chest and picks up the echoes as they reflect off various structures in the heart. The echoes are transmitted to a video monitor that shows pictures of your heart, which are recorded for later viewing and evaluation. The room is usually darkened to improve the visibility of the video monitor.

    At times you will be asked to hold very still, breathe in and out very slowly, hold your breath, or lie on your left side. The transducer is usually moved to specific locations on your chest wall to provide specific views of your heart.

    After the test is completed, the gel is wiped off your chest and the electrodes are removed. 

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Transoesphageal echocardiography

    Including preparation and recovery time, the entire test takes about 2 hours.

    Your throat may be numbed with an anesthetic spray, gargle, or lozenge to relax your gag reflex and to ease insertion of the endoscope.

    Shortly before the procedure begins, an IV line will be placed in a vein in your arm. A medication (called an anticholinergic) may be given through the IV to decrease saliva and stomach secretions. A pain medication and sedative will be given to you through the IV in your arm during the procedure. You should feel relaxed and drowsy but still alert enough to cooperate.

    Your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure (vital signs) will be monitored throughout the procedure. Also, a small device attached to your finger or earlobe (called a pulse oximeter) may be used to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood.

    You will be asked to lie on your left side with your head tilted slightly forward. A mouth guard may be inserted to protect your teeth from the endoscope. Then the lubricated tip of the endoscope will be guided into your mouth while your doctor gently presses your tongue out of the way. You may be asked to swallow to help move the tube along. It may be helpful to remember that the instrument is no thicker than many foods you swallow. Once the endoscope is in the esophagus, it will be advanced gently to the level of your upper right heart chamber (atrium) and ultrasound images will be taken. You will not feel or hear the sound waves during the test.

    During the procedure, try not to swallow unless requested. An assistant may remove the saliva from your mouth with a suction device, or you can just let the saliva drain from the side of your mouth. A transesophageal echo is generally painless, though you may feel nauseated and uncomfortable while the transducer is in your esophagus.

    The endoscope will be in your esophagus for about 10 to 20 minutes.

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After Care

 After Transoesphageal echocardiography, you will not be able to drive (due to the sedative intake) for at least 12 hours after the procedure. Be sure to make arrangements in advance for someone to pick you up after the test.

After the test, you may resume all normal activities. Your physician will discuss the results of your ultrasound examination with you.

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Please call our hotline 16171 or (202) 3336-3310 (Mohandeseen), (202) 2417 5556 (Heliopolis) or (202) 2528 4888 (Maadi) to speak with a radiologist if you have any questions. It is best to call between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., Saturday through Thursday.


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Last modified: 17-06-2009