Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

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The transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is a medical procedure that records high quality moving images of the heart and its functions. The term transesophageal refers to a flexible tube (probe) that is inserted into the patient’s esophagus rather than outside the body like a traditional echocardiogram. This procedure is used by medical professionals to diagnose a wide variety of heart-related ailments.

How a Transesophageal Echocardiogram Works

transesophageal echocardiogram

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Top prepare for the transesophageal echocardiogram the patient’s throat is numbed. An ultrasound transducer is then lowered into the esophagus. Because the esophagus passes directly behind the heart, the probe can get very close, providing higher accuracy and crisper images. It sends out sound waves that bounce against the surfaces of the heart. A computer then converts the echoed sound waves into a stream of high quality images.

A transesophageal echocardiogram is used by doctors to detect blood clots, fluid buildup, and problems with the aorta. The images are also used to diagnose heart and blood vessel diseases. Because the technology does not use radiation exposure, the process is safe for even small children and infants.

When TEE is Used

TEE is considered a noninvasive procedure, but does cause a certain level of discomfort for patients. Therefore, a traditional echocardiogram (EKG) is typically used first. If the EKG does not provide images with sufficient quality, a doctor may recommend that a transesophageal echocardiogram be used. The use of TEE procedures is actually pretty rare.

EKG Technicians and TEE

In many cases an EKG technician will be responsible for the transesophageal echocardiogram procedure. These technicians have been specifically trained to operate and maintain EKG equipment and instruments. However, they rely on other medical professionals to interpret the results of the procedures. They are not trained medical professionals and are not typically involved in diagnosing patients.

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