Diagnostic Tests & Procedures
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Echocardiography is a non-invasive imaging test of the heart in which pictures are acquired using ultrasound waves. There is no radiation risk for this kind of test. The information gives detailed analysis of the heart muscle, whether there has been any prior damage (heart attack), the function of the heart valves and the surrounding structures.

There are two types of echocardiograms:

  • Transthoracic Echocariography (TTE) or surface echocardiography is the most common type of cardiac ultrasound test and it is performed in an office setting.  Ultrasound gel is applied to the chest. The heart is then imaged from a variety of positions. The entire test takes approximately 30-45 minutes. There is no preparation for this test.

  • Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE) is ordered in a few patients where it is necessary to get more detailed information. By passing the probe into the esophagus, the TEE provides a much clearer image of the heart and allows us to see parts of the heart not ordinarily visualized on surface echocardiography. This is because the sounds waves during a TEE travel a much shorter distance, and do not have to pass through the skin, chest, muscle or bone. This is an outpatient test that requires special training obtained by several members of our practice and is performed in a hospital on an awake but sedated patient. A small probe is inserted into the esophagus (feeding tube) through your mouth while you are awake but sedated.

What to expect (for your TEE):

During the test you will be given an intravenous sedative to make you comfortable. In most patients, transesophageal echocardiograms are performed with very low risk and the details of the test will be reviewed with you by our cardiologist and the staff. All patients are closely monitored by medical professionals throughout the test.  As with any test involving sedation, patients are also monitored for a period of time after the test to make sure they have fully recovered.

  • Check with your doctor to see which medications should be taken the day of your procedure.
  • Do not eat or drink anything except small sips of water for at least eight hours before the test.
  • Notify the doctor performing the procedure if you are allergic or sensitive to any medications.
  • The nurse will place an IV in your arm and electrodes on your chest. You will be brought into a special room where the test is performed and, you will be given oxygen and placed on your left side. An intravenous sedative will be given to relax you.
  • Once you’re relaxed, the probe will be passed and cardiac imaging will proceed.
  • Once the test is completed, you will be brought to the recovery room to be monitored.   Shortly thereafter you will go home.
  • The entire test takes approximately 60 minutes, with an additional one hour to recover.
  • Because you are sedated during the procedure you must arrange for someone to drive you home after the test.
Southcoast Physicians Group An affiliate of Southcoast Physicians Group.