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Tests & procedures

Trans Oesophageal Echocardiogram (TOE)

What is a TOE?

A transoesophogeal echocardiogram (TOE) is an ultrasound of your heart using a long tube-like transducer that takes images of the heart from inside the food pipe (oesophagus). This procedure enables doctors to view the heart more clearly than with a normal ultrasound through the chest wall. The TOE looks at the heart chamber sizes, pumping action, valve appearance and function and the blood flow through the heart. It is also the best way of looking for clots within the heart.

Before the TOE

You will be required not to eat or drink anything six for (6) hours prior to the procedure.

You may take your usual medications with a sip of water (unless you have been instructed by your doctor to do otherwise.)  If you are taking diabetic medication, you must let the doctor know as you will be given special instructions.

The doctor will discuss the procedure with you, and you will be asked to sign a consent form.

Advise the Doctor is you are having any swallowing problems, oesophagitis or if you have an oesophageal stricture.

During the TOE

You will be placed on a heart monitor. Your pulse, blood pressure and heart rhythm (ECG) will be monitored during the test.

A small needle with a tube connected to it (cannula) will be put into a vein in your arm. You will be given some medication through this cannula to sedate you (light anaesthesia).

The back of your throat may be numbed with a local anaesthetic spray to numb the oesophagus. A mouth guard will be used to protect your teeth. Once you are relaxed the TOE probe is placed into your mouth, you will be asked to do a big swallow to assist in getting the probe down your oesophagus and positioned to the area close to your heart.

When the probe is in the right place, pictures of your heart are taken. The probe will be in place for about 15 to 30 minutes.

Are there any risks?

As with any medical tests there are risks, but serious problems are rare.  For most people there are no complications. Your doctor will discuss any risks with you at the time of signing the consent form.

After the TOE

At the end of the test, the probe will be removed. Nursing staff will monitor your pulse, blood pressure and general condition.

Your throat may be a little sore and will still be numb after the test. You will not be able to eat or drink anything for two (2) hours after the test or until the numbness goes away.

Due to the sedation you will need to stay in hospital for a couple of hours. The nurses will get you to do a “sip-test” to ensure you are safe to eat and drink.

You will not be able to drive for 24 hours following the procedure. You will be unable to drink alcohol, operate machinery or sign important documents for a minimum of 24 hours after the procedure.

Going back to work:

You should be OK to return to work after the 24 hours. Please discuss with your doctor and request a medical certificate on discharge if required.