Posted October 2, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 2 min read
A transthoracic echo is the type most people think of when they hear heart echo. It’s also the type most often used. It’s performed outside your body.
Preparing for a Transthoracic Echo
There’s not much you need to do to prepare for this type of echo. In general:
You don’t need to avoid eating or drinking before a transthoracic echo.
Take your medications as you usually do.
Wear anything you’d like.
Leave anything valuable at home.
You’ll be given a storage locker to use during the test.
What to expect during a Transthoracic Echo
A transthoracic echo includes the following steps:
You’ll be asked to remove your clothing from the waist up. You’ll put on a hospital gown.
Your sonographer will place several electrodes on your chest. These are small, flat, sticky patches.
The electrodes are attached to an electrocardiograph (EKG) monitor.
The EKG records your heart’s electrical activity during the test.
You’ll lie down on an exam table.
Your sonographer will ask you to lie on your left side if possible.
Your sonographer will place a sound-wave transducer (wand) on several areas of your chest.
There’s a small amount of gel on the end of the wand, which won’t harm your skin.
This gel helps produce clearer pictures.
You may hear swishing sounds throughout the test which is normal, it means you’re hearing blood flowing through your heart as the wand picks up the sound.
Throughout the test, your sonographer may ask you to hold your breath for several seconds at a time.
You may also need to move into a different position.
You should feel no major discomfort during the test.
You may feel a coolness on your skin from the gel on the wand.
You may also feel a slight pressure of the wand against your chest.
How is a Transesophageal Echocardiogram done?
A transesophageal echo takes pictures from inside your chest, rather than from the outside.
It can show your heart and valves in greater detail than a transthoracic echo.
That’s because your body’s bones and tissues aren’t in between the transducer and your heart.
For this test, the sonographer guides a small transducer down your throat and esophagus (food tube) using a long, flexible tube.
This minimally invasive procedure may cause mild, temporary discomfort.
But it has a low risk of serious problems.
This type of echo may be used:
When your provider needs a detailed look at your aorta or the back of your heart (especially your left atrium or left ventricle).
To check for blood clots.
To evaluate your mitral valve or aortic valve.
If you have obesity or lung disorders.
If a transthoracic echo isn’t possible for various other reasons.