Transesophageal echocardiography, or TEE, is a test that requires a technician to insert a flexible probe into the patient's mouth and then guide it down his throat. Sound waves are then used to take pictures of the patient's heart, and the images aid the doctor in diagnosing certain heart conditions.
Prior to the TEE test, the technician sprays the patient's throat with a medication to help suppress the gag reflex and numb the area. After the patient lies down, a nurse inserts an intravenous line into the patient's arm and administers a sedative.
Next, small metal electrodes are placed on the patient's chest, and those electrodes are attached to a machine by wires. The machine then tracks the patient's heartbeat during the procedure.
Once the probe is inserted into the patient's mouth and guided down his throat by the doctor, the transducer that is attached to the end of the probe begins recording the echoes that are produced inside the patient. The echoes show up as images on a video screen, and the doctor uses them to evaluate the patient's heart condition. This final step of the test generally takes between 10 and 15 minutes to complete.
Once the test is completed and the probe is removed, the patient may have difficulty swallowing for a few hours. A sore throat is common for up to two days, but the doctor must be contacted if it persists beyond a few days.