Second-generation real-time three-dimensional echocardiography. Finally on its way into clinical cardiology?

R S von Bardeleben, H P Kühl, S Mohr-Kahaly, A Franke
Zeitschrift Für Kardiologie 2004, 93 Suppl 4: IV56-64
Three-dimensional (3D) echocardiographic imaging has been introduced as a tool to improve the assessment of both morphologic and functional parameters of the cardiovascular system. In the past, data acquisition was limited due to time-consuming sequential acquisition of multiple triggered 2D image planes from 10-60 heart cycles using transesophageal rotational, transthoracic rotational or transthoracic freehand approaches. Recent improvements in the size of matrix array probes and in computing power of modern ultrasound equipment have significantly increased both spatial and temporal resolution of "second-generation" real-time 3D scanners. Although the superiority of 3D echocardiography in the determination of ventricular volume, ventricular mass or valvular orifice area had already been demonstrated in the late 1990s, widespread use in clinical cardiology was limited on account of difficulties in acquisition and post-processing. Clinical use of modern 3D echocardiography is boosted by the marked reduction in acquisition time and the unique possibility of on-line rendering on the ultrasound system. The ability to visualize a virtual 3D surface in real time-although limited to a sector size of about 30 degrees-offers new insights into cardiac pathomorpholgy even in patients with arrhythmias and may in realtime 3D-contrast flow analysis. Analysis of wide-angle 3D datasets (90 by 90 degree pyramidal shape) is possible by combining the 3D information of several [4-7] consecutive heart cycles. 3D datasets including the complete left ventricle provide comprehensive information on ventricular and mitral valve morphology and function. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of regional wall motion at rest and during stress become possible. Combination with 3D color Doppler data allows additional assessment of valvular function as well as determination of flow in the left ventricular outflow tract and across septal defects. The integration and future quantification of these new parameters together with on-line review allows new insights into cardiac function, morphology and synchrony that offer great potentials in the evaluation of right and left ventricular global and regional function, diagnosis of small areas of ischemia, congenital and valvular heart disease and effects of biventricular pacing in dilated heart asynchrony.

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