Objective—To determine the applicability of and information obtained by transeosophageal echocardiography in neonates, infants, and children in every day practice of a cardiothoracic unit.
Design—Four month prospective study.
Setting—Supraregional centre for paediatric cardiothoracic services.
Patients and methods—58 patients aged between four days and 16 years with a wide range of cardiovascular disease underwent transoesophageal echocardiography under sedation or general anaesthetic. One of two paediatric probes (6 or 7 mm diameter), or an adult probe (13 mm in diameter) was used. Whenever possible the investigation was immediately preceded by precordial echocardiography.
Main outcome measures—Success, failure, technical difficulties, and complications of probe introduction and, when possible, comparison of the information obtained with that obtained from precordial echocardiography.
Results—Introduction of the probe was successful in 57 of the 58 patients. The only complication encountered was transient bradycardia during manipulation of the probe in a 2·2 kg baby. The adult (13 mm) probe was successfully used in children as small as 7·0 kg. Below this weight a smaller paediatric probe was required. In 56% of cases transoesophageal ultrasound provided information not obtained from the precordial approach. The technique was of particular value perioperatively and in the immediate postoperative period in neonates and infants and in the presence of valve prostheses and the investigation of mediastinal tumours in older children.
Conclusions—Transoesophageal echocardiography is a valuable additional investigative tool for children of all ages. It is of particular value when aquisition of precordial image is impaired around the time of and after operation and in children with prosthetic valves or mediastinal tumour. Image quality was superior with the adult probe and we recommend the use of this probe unless the patient's weight is below 7 kg, when a paediatric probe allows this technique to be used usefully and safely in babies as small as 2·2 kg.
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