Update to phone lines at our Birchmount and General Hospitals: If calling through Birchmount main line (416-495-2400), add “7” when dialing an extension. If calling through General main line (416-438-2911), add “8” when dialing an extension.


Transthoracic Echocardiography

An echocardiogram is a safe and painless diagnostic procedure that uses sound waves to take moving pictures of the heart. The sound waves are directed at the heart from a small, hand held transducer (camera) which sends and receives signals that appear on the screen as a moving image of the heart.

These images are in black and white. Colour can be added to show the blood moving in and out of the chambers. Many measurements are taken during the test to determine how well your heart is working.

What should I do to prepare for the test?

No special preparations are required. You may eat and perform normal activities (unless otherwise instructed), and continue to take medications as prescribed by your physician.

How long is this test?

The test takes approximately 45 minutes from start to finish. A specially trained sonographer will perform the test, keeping your comfort and safety in mind.

Does it hurt?

Ultrasound cannot be felt and does not hurt. If you experience any discomfort, you should notify the sonographer performing the test. There are no known harmful effects from diagnostic cardiac ultrasound.

What will happen during the test?

  • You will be given an explanation before the test starts and have time to ask questions
  • You will be asked to disrobe from the waist up, and be given a gown to put on
  • Three electrodes will be attached to your chest to obtain an ECG signal
  • A blood pressure may be done once, at the beginning
  • You will be asked to lie on the examining table on your left side during the test and a series of images and measurements will be acquired over the course of the 45 minutes

Although the sonographer performing the test can see what is occurring with your heart, he/she cannot provide any information. The test must be read and interpreted by the Cardiologist who will then send a report to the physician who requested the test and that physician will release the results of your test.

Transesophageal Echocardiography

A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is a procedure performed to evaluate your heart and the surrounding structures. The esophagus lies directly behind the heart, allowing for better quality images generally than those obtained from an echocardiogram from the chest wall. It is especially valuable in patients with valve replacements, history of a stroke, or when adequate images cannot be obtained from the chest wall.

To perform a TEE, a small flexible tube containing a small transducer is passed into the esophagus. Prior to the test, the back of your throat will be frozen with a medication that will be sprayed into your mouth. You will then be given medication by intravenous in order to make you comfortable and sleepy, this is not general anesthesia.

Before the test

You are asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the test. The morning of the test, you may take your medications with small sips of water.

During the test

When you arrive for the test, the doctor will explain the procedure to you and will discuss any questions you may have. An intravenous (IV) line will be placed in your arm for the sedatives that will be given to you during the procedure. As stated before, your throat will be numbed with medication to make the procedure more comfortable. During the procedure, you will be monitored closely while the ultrasound images are obtained. The test lasts approximately 45 minutes.

After the procedure, you will remain in the procedure room until you are fully awake. You may be drowsy for a period of time following the procedure. You may or may not have a sore throat. You will be asked not to eat or drink anything for two hours after the procedure, until the numbing wears off. After two hours, you may eat soft foods, but avoid hot liquids. We ask that a family member or friend accompany you so that he/she can drive you home. You are not to drive yourself due to the sedative medications.