Transesophageal and Transthoracic Echocardiograms

UT Southwestern cardiac imaging experts examine an echocardiogram.
John Warner, M.D., Nikki Ruppe, R.N., and cardiac imaging technician Sean Jones, all of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

An echocardiogram is an imaging procedure that uses ultrasound to visualize the heart. With this procedure, doctors can see the heart in a two-dimensional or three-dimensional view to assess structure, blood flow, valve abnormalities, defects, and cardiac output.  

There are two types of echocardiography:

  • Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE)
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) 

Echocardiogram Indications

You may need an echocardiogram if you have:

Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE)

Transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is the standard echocardiogram frequently used to get a generic picture of the heart. To do this procedure, a probe called an echocardiographic transducer is placed on the chest wall from the outside. Images are taken by moving the probe around to see different angles of the heart on a video monitor.

The TTE is completely noninvasive. A physician can quickly get an idea of the structure, valves, and flow through the heart.  

Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE)

A transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is used to take clearer pictures of the heart in cases where there are questions with the transthoracic echocardiogram. In this procedure, the probe is placed into the esophagus while the patient is sedated. This method allows the probe to be closer to the heart without any other structures (ribs, lungs, or muscle) to interfere with the ultrasound. The aorta, valves, and pulmonary artery are better visualized with a TEE.

Request an Appointment

To schedule an appointment for an echocardiogram at UT Southwestern's facilities in Dallas or for more information about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.