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Transoesophageal echocardiogram

Gain fast access to a transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE), a painless test that provides clear images of the inside of your heart to monitor your heart health

Transoesophageal echocardiogram procedure with heartbeat shown on the screen
A transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE) is a non-invasive diagnostic test that offers clear and accurate images of your heart to monitor its structure and how it functions. A TOE is performed using a probe that is inserted slowly and gently down your throat. This probe is connected to a monitor that displays images of the inside of your heart as the test is being performed.

What is an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram, also referred to as an "echo", is a painless scan that looks inside your heart and its nearby surrounding blood vessels. The test can detect issues with your heart and help monitor your heart health more generally.

It is a type of ultrasound scan, which means it is performed using a small probe that sends high-frequency soundwaves that create echoes, which bounce from parts of your body. These echoes are detected by the probe and turned into a moving image displayed on a monitor as the scan is being performed. 

Who can perform an echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram can be performed by a consultant cardiologist, a cardiac physiologist, a trained sonographer, or even your GP. The results of an echocardiogram are typically analysed by a cardiac physiologist and confirmed by your consultant cardiologist. 

Your echocardiogram with Circle Health Group

At Circle Health Group, we have a large network of specialists who can perform transoesophageal echocardiograms. To find out more, you can call a member of our advisory team on on 0141 300 5009, or book an initial consultation with a consultant online.

There are three main types of echocardiograms, which are: 

Each echocardiogram captures images of the inside of your heart using a different technique. 

A transoesophageal echocardiogram is usually performed when your consultant needs to look more closely at the inside of your heart. For example, they might be looking specifically for blood clots, which are masses of blood that form when platelets, proteins and cells in your blood stick together.

It is the only type of echocardiogram that takes images of your heart from the inside of your body, providing clearer and more detailed images than a standard echocardiogram. TOE might be offered if a TTE (standard echocardiogram) or stress echocardiogram has not clearly captured the inside of your heart and helped identify the cause of your symptoms. 

An echocardiogram of any kind can help diagnose and monitor several heart conditions by checking the structure of your heart and how blood flows through its surrounding blood vessels. The test(s) can check for:

A heart attack

When the blood supply to your heart is blocked.

Heart failure

If your heart fails to pump enough blood around your body at the right pressure, it can lead to heart failure.


When you have an infection in the lining of your heart, which damages your heart valves.

Congenital heart disease

This is an umbrella term to describe a range of birth defects that affect the way your heart functions.

Blood clots

These occur when certain gel-like collections of blood build up in your veins or arteries. 

Your consultant or cardiac physiologist will recommend you have a transoesophageal echocardiogram instead of a TTE or stress echocardiogram for various reasons, including if you:

  • Have symptoms of blood clots (these include sharp chest pain, breathlessness, and coughing)
  • Have symptoms of a a hole in your heart (these also include sharp chest pain and breathlessness)
  • Have symptoms of a tear in your aorta (these include sudden and severe upper chest and upper back pain)
  • Have symptoms an infection in your heart valves (these include a temperature and joint pain)

A TOE is performed by a consultant cardiologist. During this test, you will be asked to lie down on one of our hospital beds. A local numbing spray (anaesthetic) will be applied to the back of your throat and a probe will be passed down into your oesophagus and sometimes into your stomach.

You might be offered a sedative for the procedure, which is a medication that calms you down and eases discomfort during surgery. The test is not painful, but it might cause some discomfort in your throat, which can be managed with the sedative. If you are offered a sedative, it is usually administered through a fine tube (also called a cannula) into a vein in your arm. Sedatives can sometimes impact your breathing, so your oxygen levels and heart rhythm will be monitored closely during the test. You might also be offered extra oxygen, if needed.

You will be asked to swallow as the probe is gently inserted in your throat and moved down into your stomach. This probe is connected to a monitor that displays images of the inside of your heart as the test is being performed. These pictures are continuously updated to show the movement of your heart while the test is being performed. 

A TOE usually takes around 30 minutes.

You will be asked to follow fasting instructions for a TOE, which usually involves not eating or drinking for six hours before the test. You will also be asked to remove any dentures or dental plates from your mouth before you lie down on the bed and the probe is passed down your throat.

You should arrange for someone to collect you from hospital after the test. This is because you won't be able to drive for 24 hours after having a sedative. We are happy to arrange for a taxi to collect you from hospital, if you would prefer.

Your consultant will make sure you know everything you need to do before having the test to help you feel prepared and put your mind at ease.

If you have had a sedative for your echocardiogram, you might feel sleepy and out of sorts for around 24 hours after the procedure. You should not drink alcohol or operate heavy machinery during this time, while the sedative wears off. You should be able to return to your normal everyday activities the day after the test when the sleepy feeling has resided.

You might also have a sore throat for a day or two after the test, caused by the probe being inserted into your mouth. This should pass quickly and can be managed with traditional painkillers.

Your consultant and healthcare team are there to answer any questions you might have about how to manage your recovery after a TOE, but you should feel back to normal after around 24 hours following the procedure. 

In most cases, you will receive your results on the day of your test.

Your physiologist will need around an hour to analyse your results after your test. Your consultant will confirm their analysis and your diagnosis. You will meet with your consultant after the test to discuss your results and potential treatment plan in detail.

In some cases, you might need to wait a day or two before getting your results, but this depends on your individual circumstances. Your consultant will ensure you know how long you will have to wait for your results to help ease your mind and stop you from worrying unnecessarily.

It is important to remember that every procedure, no matter how minor, comes with risk factors. Some risks associated with a TOE include:

  • Injury to your mouth or throat
  • Injury to your teeth
  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Some people can have an allergic reaction to the sedative used during a TOE. This is rare, but you will have the opportunity to let your doctor know if you are prone to allergies or have experienced an allergic reaction to a sedative or contrast dye before. 

Your doctor will ensure you know everything you need to know about the potential risks of having a TOE, so you can feel prepared for the test and reassured that complications are rare.

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to fit your routine
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Support by the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to learn more about this procedure, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in July 2022. Next review due July 2025.

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