Feasibility, utility, and safety of fully incorporating transesophageal echocardiography into emergency medicine practice

Acad Emerg Med. 2022 Mar;29(3):334-343. doi: 10.1111/acem.14399. Epub 2021 Nov 6.


Introduction: Transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) is a standard procedure for emergency physicians (EPs). Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) is known to have great utility in patients who are critically ill or in cardiac arrest and has been used by some EPs with specialized ultrasound (US) training, but it is generally considered outside the reach of the majority of EPs. We surmised that all of our EPs could learn to perform focused TEE (F-TEE), so we trained and credentialed all of the physicians in our group.

Methods: We trained 52 EPs to perform and interpret F-TEEs using a 4-h simulator-based course. We kept a database of all F-TEE examinations for quality assurance and continuous quality feedback. Data are reported using descriptive statistics.

Results: Emergency physicians attempted 557 total F-TEE examinations (median = 10, interquartile range = 5-15) during the 42-month period following training. Clinically relevant images were obtained in 99% of patients. EPs without fellowship or other advanced US training performed the majority of F-TEEs (417, 74.9%) and 94.3% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 91.4%-96.3%) had interpretable images recorded. When TTE and TEE were both performed (n = 410), image quality of TEE was superior in 378 (93.3%, 95% CI = 89.7%-95%). Indications for F-TEE included periarrest states (55.7%), cardiac arrest (32.1%), and shock (12.2%). There was one case of endotracheal tube dislodgement during TEE placement, but this was immediately identified and replaced without complication.

Conclusion: After initiating a mandatory group F-TEE training and credentialing program, we report the largest series to date of EP-performed resuscitative F-TEE. The majority of F-TEE examinations (75%) were performed by EPs without advanced US training beyond residency.

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal / adverse effects
  • Echocardiography, Transesophageal / methods
  • Emergency Medicine*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Heart Arrest* / etiology
  • Humans