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4D Echocardiography - with new technology to new borders

The only current method in cardiology by which the heart can be studied with high spatial and temporal resolution in three dimensions in real time.

Unlike sectional imaging technologies (CT and MRI) conventional echocardiography was unable to display neither spatial relationship to other structures, nor multi-dimensional image representation. With the introduction of real-time 3D echocardiography, dimensional images of the heart, and especially of the heart valves, are now possible.

3D-Echokardiographie: Aufbau moderner Matrix Transducer  
In conventional ultrasonic echocardiography crystals are arranged in a row for imaging. The result is a moving two-dimensional image that is usually shown in gray tones (see the figure above).
 The advantage of this process is a high spatial and temporal resolution, which cannot be achieved by any other clinically relevant method. A possible disadvantage of 2D echocardiography was the limited repeatability of image levels (examiner dependency).
Today, matrix transducer technology is available for echocardiography. This allows the acoustic crystals to be arranged in a lattice structure (left). The result is a "sound pyramid" (bottom left), in which the whole heart may be included. Almost any image plane can be generated from this pyramid. An example of this type of improvement can be seen in the real-time display of heart valves.
This method has numerous advantages over conventional echocardiography. It allows a better anatomically correct 3D data set to be developed. Image planes, which otherwise would be virtually impossible to display, especially its relation to other structures, may now be technically prepared or changed by the examiner after completion of the recording. In addition to significantly shortened examination times completely new evaluation methods become possible. 3D echocardiography allows for a much more complex analysis, especially of the movement and behavior of cardiac muscle contraction. The illustration at right shows three standard section planes, and (lower right) 16 parallel short axis slices. Such a representation can be generated from a single heartbeat. 
3D Echokardiographie: gleichzeitige Darstellung verschiedener Schnittebenen.  (Isar Herz Zentrum München)
 
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