Transesophageal echocardiography is a new approach that can be used to image cardiac structures. It combines two existing technologies: cardiac ultrasound and endoscopy. To obtain a cardiac image, the transesophageal probe has to be positioned properly within the esophagus. The first 1500 consecutive transesophageal echocardiographic examinations in ambulatory adult patients from one center were analyzed to identify conditions associated with failed esophageal intubation and procedural complications. Esophageal intubation was not achieved in 11 patients (0.73%). The reasons for the failure of intubation were operator inexperience, hypersensitive pharynx despite topical anesthesia, and cervical spondylosis. Six of those patients also had a history of dysphagia. Procedural complications were identified in seven patients (0.47%). Tracheal intubation was present in four patients, with immediate development of stridor and incessant cough in two patients. Atrial fibrillation developed in two patients--one had atrial myxoma and one had mitral stenosis. Bronchospasm developed during the transesophageal examination in one patient who was receiving long-term treatment for bronchial asthma. We conclude that transesophageal echocardiography is feasible in most adult patients in the ambulatory setting and that the complication rate is very low. Proper patient selection and preparation are crucial to the successful performance of this procedure.