First of all, I'd like to say that people will have different experiences of the TOE procedure, but I'd like to tell of my procedure to help reassure any of you that have it to come.
When I first found out about this procedure I was terrified to say the least. It sounded pretty dramatic, but necessary. Googling it didn't help much either in easing my concerns.
I have to admit....this has been the first time I've been in hospital for a 'procedure' (apart from an ECG).
Anyway, living in Bristol, I was seen to by the Bristol Heart Institute (part of the much larger Bristol Royal Infirmary).
I take my hat off to the NHS and staff at the BRI.
My TOE appointment was for 9.30am, but I was asked to arrive at 8.00am (to fill in forms, change into a hospital gown, have blood taken, blood pressure taken and cannula fitted). All done very professionally by a very friendly and attentative team of nurses and doctors, who explained everything step by step.
Next, it was just a case of waiting until my turn (second in the queue), and I was wheeled down on the hospital bed at 10.15.
I was wired up for monitoring, the sedative (Midazolam) connected and the 'banana' flavoured anesthetic sprayed into the back of my throat. It also goes on your tongue, making that numb too!
...but you can still swallow.
You roll over on your left side and one of the attending nurses fits your mouth guard (a bit like a tube you hold between your teeth, not like the boxer's gum shield I had anticipated).
Next, you get given a small amount of the sedative to relax you as the probe goes into your mouth and rests on your tongue.
This is when you swallow, and the doctor slides it down your throat, then just lay there and feel a little sleepy.
Depending on the amount of sedative you have, you will feel the probe being moved up and down the oesophagus (as I did), not in a painful way, just the 'awareness' of it being down there. There was still a very slight desire to 'gag' at times, but I would guess if you're feeling uncomfortable the nurse would administer more of the sedative.
The whole procedure took less time than expected (I was told 45 minutes).
I was wheeled back to the ward. My BP taken again and left to 'recover'.
After 30 minutes I was given water to check my ability to swallow. Your throat will feel sore and swollen. I was okay and brought lunch.
An hour later I was okay to be discharged to my partner, as the hospital wouldn't allow me to leave on my own (which is understandable).
All in all, a better experience than I'd anticipated and well worth the discomfort, as my mitral regurgitation is actually minor thanks to the greater clarity of the TOE procedure.
If you have this procedure coming up, don't fret about it. If your NHS staff are as good as those at the BRI, you'll be in good hands.