Echocardiogram | Services | Cardiac Care at Tyler Heart Institute - Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula

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Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to record a three-dimensional image of a beating heart. This 3D image reveals important information about the heart's wall motion, valve function, and direction and speed of blood flow through the valves of the heart. Community Hospital does both transthoracic and transesophegeal echocardiograms.

What to expect

No special preparation is needed for a transthoracic echocardiogram. You will be asked to remove clothing from the upper half of your body and given a gown or drape for privacy.

You will lie down on an exam table and a colorless gel will be applied to your chest. A technologist will glide a thick, handheld wand over your chest. The wand transmits sound waves that create an image of your heart.

The technologist may ask you to move from your back to your side during the exam to capture images of the heart from several angles. You may also be asked to breathe slowly or hold your breath for short periods to help capture  higher-quality images.

Your technologist will be able to view the images as they are being captured, and they will be recorded for review by your doctor.

Recovery

Generally, no recovery time is needed after a transthoracic echocardiogram.


Transesophegeal echocardiogram (TEE)

In a transesophegeal echocardiogram (TEE), a small device on the end of a thin, flexible tube is guided down your throat and positioned directly behind the heart into the esophagus. Sound waves are transmitted from the device to create the image.

A TEE is sometimes needed if adequate images can't be made through a transthoracic echocardiogram. This generally happens when the patient has a particularly thick layer of muscle or fat over the chest and ribcage, or because the patient has emphysema or another upper respiratory condition.

What to expect

A TEE exam takes 10 to 30 minute, but your appointment will last about 2 hours, including preparation and observation time.

At the start of the TEE procedure, a mild sedative may be administered using an IV, along with local anesthesia.

Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing will be monitored during the procedure. Your throat will be numbed with an anesthetic spray to minimize any pain or discomfort.

You will be asked to swallow a small device that will transmit the sound waves during the exam. The device is similar in size to a large grape; it is attached to the end of a long flexible tube, and you will swallow it in the same way you swallow food. Once you have swallowed the tube, the device will be positioned in your esophagus, directly behind your heart. The technician may move the tube and the sound device during the exam to get images of different angles of the heart.

Recovery

  • Allow 2 hours for the numbness in your throat to wear off before eating or drinking.
  • Do not drive for at least 12 hours after the procedure.
  • Avoid hot food and drinks for 24 hours after the procedure.
  • Mild soreness in the throat is common; and throat lozenges may help soothe the irritation.

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