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New cardiac equipment gets to the heart of the matter

January 15, 2018

Cardiologists Dr. Stephen Tilley and Dr. Colm Murphy and Director of Cardiac Sciences Kelly Lehmann proudly display Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre’s new transesophageal echocardiography system, commonly known as the ‘TEE echo’. Thanks to an anonymous donation through the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation, Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre has a TEE echo for the first time.

‘TEE echo’ takes ultrasound images from inside a patient’s body

Story & photo by Heather Kipling

Red Deer - Cardiologists at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre can now view patients’ hearts with significantly improved clarity using some new high-tech equipment.

The hospital is now home to a transesophageal echocardiography system, commonly known as the ‘TEE echo.’ It’s a semi-invasive monitoring and diagnostic tool that uses echocardiography to assess how well a patient’s heart is working. The TEE echo was used on patients here for the first time last week.

“Having a TEE echo machine is an excellent addition to the care we’re able to provide to cardiology patients in Red Deer,” says Kelly Lehmann, Director of Cardiac Sciences at the hospital. “It gives cardiologists the ability to view detailed structures of the heart and the heart’s valves, which helps them make decisions about the treatment each patient needs.

“This improved diagnostic quality will assist our cardiologists in offering accurate and timely diagnosis which, in turn, helps patients get treatment faster.”

Unlike a conventional echocardiogram that uses an ultrasound probe applied to the front of a patient’s chest, a TEE echo uses ultrasound to take images of the heart from inside the patient’s body. The ultrasound wand is positioned on a long, flexible endoscope that is passed down the patient's esophagus and is positioned behind the patient’s heart.

The TEE echo provides clearer images of the heart, including its valves and chambers, without obstruction from the ribs or lungs. Certain heart conditions — including valve disorders, blood clots and abnormalities with the aorta — are better seen with the TEE echo than conventional ultrasound.

Prior to the arrival of the equipment late last year, local and area patients in need of a TEE echocardiogram had to travel to Calgary or Edmonton for the procedure.

The purchase of the $500,000 TEE machine was made possible through an anonymous $750,000 donation to the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation in 2015, which was earmarked to support the purchase of new equipment to enhance the cardiology department.

“We have a very supportive community that goes above and beyond for our local healthcare, and this is an incredible example of the generosity we’re fortunate to be a part of,” says Iaian Park, Executive Director of the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation. “We are very grateful for the support we receive from our donors. Every donation, no matter the size, makes a difference in the hospital. Any piece of equipment that can be purchased, or service that can be added, will enhance local healthcare for central Albertans.”