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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Disease and the Echocardiogram

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What Should I Do to Prepare for a Transesophageal Echocardiogram?

Before a transesophageal echocardiogram, tell your doctor if you have any problems with your esophagus, such as hiatal hernia, swallowing problems, or cancer.

On the day of a transesophageal echocardiogram, do not eat or drink anything for six hours before the test. Take all of your medications at the usual times, as prescribed by your doctor. If you must take medication before the test, take it with a small sip of water.

If you have diabetes and take medication or insulin to manage your blood sugar, please ask your doctor or the testing center for specific guidelines about taking your diabetes medications before the test.

Someone should come with you to your appointment to take you home, as you should not drive until the day after the test. The sedation given during the test causes drowsiness, dizziness, and impairs your judgment, making it unsafe for you to drive or operate machinery.

What Happens During the Transesophageal Echocardiogram?

Before the transesophageal echocardiogram, you will be asked to remove dentures. An intravenous line (IV) will be inserted into a vein in your arm or hand so that medications can be delivered during the test.

A technician will gently rub three small areas on your chest and place electrodes (small, flat, sticky patches) on these areas. The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph monitor (ECG or EKG) that charts your heart's electrical activity during the test.

A blood pressure cuff will be placed on your arm to monitor your blood pressure during the test. A small clip, attached to a pulse oximeter, will be placed on your finger to monitor the oxygen level of your blood during the test.

A mild sedative (medicine to help you relax) will be given through your IV. Because of the sedative, you may not be entirely awake for the test.

An ultrasound probe (viewing instrument) will be inserted into your mouth, down your throat, and into your esophagus. This won't affect your breathing. You may be asked to swallow at certain times to help the ultrasound probe pass into your esophagus. This part of the test lasts a few seconds and may be uncomfortable. Once the probe is positioned, pictures of the heart are obtained at various angles. You will not feel this part of the test.

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