Transesophageal Echocardiography (TOE)

Transesophageal Echocardiography uses ultrasound technology to take detailed pictures of your heart and the arteries that lead to and from it.

A TOE generates clearer images of the upper chambers of the heart and the valves between the upper and lower chambers of the heart, than standard Echocardiograms.


The images generated from a TOE will help your Consultant to see:

  • The size of your heart and how thick its walls are.
  • How well your heart is pumping.
  • If there is abnormal tissue around your heart valves.
  • If blood is leaking backwards through your heart valves (regurgitation).
  • If your valves are narrowed or blocked (stenosis).
  • If blood clots are present in the chambers of your heart, in particular the upper chamber.

The Procedure

  • This procedure usually lasts between 30 - 60 minutes.
  • You will receive some sedation to help you relax.
  • Electrodes will be attached to your chest and connected to an ECG machine to monitor your heart beat.
  • Your mouth and throat are numbed with local anaesthetic spray to suppress the gag reflex and to make it easier to swallow the ultrasound device.
  • Once the device is in position, it will send sound-waves to your heart and collect the echoes that bounce back. The echos will then become images that show up on a video screen, allowing your Consultant to view all areas of your heart.
  • When the Consultant is finished taking pictures of the heart, the probe is removed slowly and the electrodes are disconnected.

Following the procedure:

  • Observation is continued until the effects of the sedation and local anaesthetic have worn off.
  • You cannot eat or drink anything for at least 2 hours after the test as the back of your throat will still be numb.
  • When you have sufficiently recovered you will be given a light snack.
  • Following sedation you must not drive, operate a machine, make important decisions or drink alcohol until the next day.
  • You must be collected on discharge, as you are not allowed to drive or travel home unaccompanied following sedation.