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Echocardiography in heart failure: applications, utility, and new horizons.

Echocardiography is well qualified to meet the growing need for noninvasive imaging in the expanding heart failure (HF) population. The recently-released American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guidelines for the diagnosis and management of HF labeled echocardiography "the single most useful diagnostic test in the evaluation of patients with HF...," because of its ability to accurately and noninvasively provide measures of ventricular function and assess causes of structural heart disease. It can also detect and define the hemodynamic and morphologic changes in HF over time and might be equivalent to invasive measures in guiding therapy. In this article we will discuss: 1) the clinical uses of echocardiography in HF and their prognostic value; 2) the use of echocardiography to guide treatment in HF patients; and 3) promising future techniques for echocardiographic-based imaging in HF. In addition, we will highlight some of the limitations of echocardiography.

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