What is a transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE)?

An operating theatre
An operating theatre

Today The Gazette has reported on three deaths in Blackpool linked to the use of a sheath which covers a probe in routine heart surgery.

Experienced medics routinely carried out the transoesophageal echocardiograms (TOEs) for years without incident before the sheaths were introduced, with one blamed on playing a key part in the 75-year-old’s death.

Experts from Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS explain what a transoesophageal echocardiogram procedure is.

READ MORE: Coroner's concern after three deaths from routine heart ops

A TOE uses ultrasound to scan a person’s heart, with a probe – about as wide as an index finger – put down their throat, and can also be used to check for blood clots, defects, or during procedures such as mitral valve surgery.

The probe produces clearer and more accurate echo pictures than those taken from the front of the chest.

This is because the oesophagus lies immediately behind the heart and there is no interference from the ribs or lungs.

A TOE is used to check:

- Your heart valves or heart muscle

- For any infection in your heart valves (endocarditis)

- For any blood clots

- For tears in your aorta (the largest blood vessel in your body)

- For any heart defects, such as a hole in the heart.

A TOE can also be used to guide your surgeon during heart procedures such as mitral valve surgery.

You may also need to have it before a an ablation for atrial fibrillation.

Original source of article: Transoesophageal echocardiogram (TOE)