Closer To The Heart

A new technology lets physicians see your heart in another dimension

A new technology called the 3D Live TEE is an alternative to a standard echocardiogram, or cardiac ultrasound, in which images are taken through the chest wall. But it is also something more: a significant advancement in cardiology.

“This procedure, 3D TEE, really makes a difference in health care,” says cardiologist Sidney J. Bolch, MD. “You look at it and say ‘Wow’.”

The full name for the technology that holds the “wow” factor for Dr. Bolch and other cardiologists is Live 3D Transesophageal Echo. The Live 3D TEE probe gives physicians in The Heart Hospital at St. Joseph’s/Candler a perspective of the heart that they had never seen before.

“We can see structures of the heart and their anatomical relations to each other, and we see it in real time, right when it’s happening,” Dr. Bolch says of the new TEE probe.

“With transesophageal cardiography, the probe goes down through the mouth and behind the heart,” Dr. Bolch says. “We get closer to the heart, and therefore acquire superior images.”

Echocardiography can be recommended for patients whose symptoms might indicate weakness of the heart, such as swelling in the legs and shortness of breath. The new Live 3D TEE gives physicians images of complex cardiac anatomy that are not available during routine echo exams. Plus, those images are clearer and more accurate than ever before.

“This probe is much more sensitive,” Dr. Bolch says. “The images it generates are three-dimensional, so a heart actually looks like a heart.”

This simple difference can affect several facets of a patient’s care. Not only can cardiologists take advantage of the extraordinary image quality to plan the most effective treatment, but surgeons and anesthesiologists can also use the Live 3D’s real time view of the complete valve from several different perspectives to gather more data in advance.

“Surgeons need to know which part of the valve is abnormal, how much of it is abnormal, and whether they can do surgery to make the repair,” Dr. Bolch says. “Clear and accurate images, from multiple perspectives, are what they need to see when they operate on the heart’s mitral valve.”

“The better you see, the more you can do,” Dr. Bolch says, noting that the enhanced resolution of the Live 3D TEE can not only help physicians see smaller problems with valves but also help them discover problems in other areas of the heart. Bolch says that the Live 3D TEE is better at finding infections earlier.

Images can also be color-coordinated to all the different regions of the heart, while still being able to be displayed three-dimensionally and in motion.

“That’s a boon for patients with weak heart muscles,” Dr. Bolch says.

Despite its many advanced benefits, the Live 3D TEE does not require its own special operating room.

“We can get a quick indication of what the heart’s doing and see its actual anatomic relationships in the body, and we can do it at the bedside,” Dr. Bolch says. “It’s amazing.”  
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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