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Transoesophaegeal Echo

What is a transoesophaegal echo (TOE)?

A transoesophaegal echo (TOE) is a special type of heart ultrasound that involves taking pictures inside your oesophagus, which is the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach. As your oesophagus is close to the back of your heart this allows your doctor to see clear pictures of your heart.

What is a TOE Test?

Your aneasthetist will supervise your sedation during your TOE test. If you have had previous problems with an anaesthetic, or you have any severe allergies please inform the doctor as soon as possible.

During the test a small needle is inserted into the back of your hand so that intravenous medicine can be given to make you sleepy. Your throat will be sprayed with local anaesthetic to make it easier to swallow. A special mouthpiece will be put in your mouth to protect your teeth. The echo probe will be gently inserted into your oesophagus and pictures will be taken of your heart. The test will take between 15 to 30 minutes to complete.

Your pulse, blood pressure, rate and regularity of your heart beat and oxygen levels will be monitored during the test. If you doctor has any concerns, the test may be stopped. At the end of your test the probe will be removed.

Before Your TOE Test

For a successful test, it is very important not to eat or drink for six hours before your appointment time. Your usual medicines can be taken with a small sip of water or as directed by your doctor.

If you have problems swallowing, oesophageal narrowing, ulceration, bleeding or pouches in the oesophagus please advise the doctor before your test. If you have an artificial heart valve, abnormal heart valve or murmurs you do not require antibiotics before this test.

After Your TOE Test

After your test, your throat will feel numb for approximately two hours and you will not be able to eat or drink until the numbness goes away. You will feel sleepy after your test so please make sure you have someone who can drive you home from the hospital.

Possible Risks and Complications of the TOE Test

This test involves a small risk that you must be aware of before signing the consent form. Listed are some of the more serious risks but these are not the only risks that can occur.

The TOE Test can cause

  • an abnormal heart beat for five in 1000 people
  • an abnormal heart beat in seven for 1000 people
  • abnormally high or low blood pressure for seven in 1000 people
  • temporary breathing problems for three in 10 000 people
  • a tear in the oesophagus for three in 10 000 people
  • pneumonia to develop due to breathing in stomach secretions or saliva for three in 10 000 people
  • death for two in 10 000 people.

It is normal for most people to have a sore throat for one to two days after the test.