The introduction of transesophageal echocardiography has provided a new acoustic window to the heart and mediastinum. High-quality images of certain cardiovascular structures (left atrial appendage, thoracic aorta, mitral valvular apparatus, and atrial septum) can be obtained readily (average examination, 15 to 20 minutes). In this article, we discuss the technique of image acquisition, image orientation, and anatomic validation. In addition, we describe our experience with the first 100 awake patients who underwent transesophageal echocardiography at our institution. The procedure was well accepted by the patients and associated with no major complications. The clinical indications for this procedure have included thoracic aortic dissection, prosthetic cardiac valve dysfunction, detection of an intracardiac source of embolism, endocarditis, cardiac and paracardiac masses, and mitral regurgitation. Transesophageal echocardiography also proved to be useful in assessment of critically ill patients in whom standard transthoracic echocardiographic images did not provide complete assessment. In these patients (who had extensive chest trauma, had undergone an operation, or were in an intensive-care unit), rapid assessment of the cardiovascular status at the bedside was possible with transesophageal echocardiography. On the basis of our initial experience, we conclude that transesophageal echocardiography complements standard two-dimensional Doppler and color flow examinations and will considerably improve the care of patients with cardiovascular disorders by providing high-quality unique images.
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