A transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE) is an echocardiogram test where the ultrasound sensor is attached to a small tube and passed into your mouth and down your oesophagus (‘gullet’) to your stomach to have a look at your heart in details and at close range from behind. Nomral echocardiograms have to look through skin, muscle, bones and lung to see the heart. The transoespophageal echocardiogram sensor gets within a few millimetres of the heart and so produced very detailed images.
It is commonly used to assess heart valve function and to look for clots in the heart. It is also used by surgeons to guide heart operations, particularly heart valve operations.
Typically you will need to fast (ie not eat or drink) for 6 hours before the test. The test itself usually lasts 10-15 minutes. If you wish, you can have a sedative to help you relax. In addition, local anaesthetic is applied to the throat to numb this area. You will lie on your side, the doctor will put the ultrasound probe in your mouth and ask you to swallow. The test is painless but may feel uncomfortable when the sensor is passed into your oesophagus.