In this non-surgical outpatient procedure, a small, flexible tube containing a probe is inserted into the esophagus to provide live images of the heart. The procedure usually takes about 30 minutes to complete.
In preparation for the procedure, the patient is positioned and the throat is numbed with an anesthetic. The patient may also be given a sedative.
The physician slowly puts the tube containing the probe into the patient's mouth and urges the patient to swallow. The physician gently eases the tube down the patient's esophagus. The patient may feel the urge to gag, but this feeling will soon pass. The procedure is not painful.
One the probe is in place, the physician turns on the monitor to see an image of the heart. The probe contains a small device called a transducer that sends sound waves toward the heart and records the echo of those sound waves to create a live image. The probe can be moved to capture images of the heart from different angles.
When the procedure is complete, the physician slowly removes the probe from the esophagus. The patient may have a sore throat or find it difficult to swallow for a short time after the procedure.