Skip to Main Content
Ultrasonic imaging is the noninvasive clinical imaging modality of choice for diagnosing heart disease. At present, two-dimensional ultrasonic grayscale images provide a relatively cheap, fast, bedside method to study the morphology of the heart. Several methods have been proposed to assess myocardial function. These have been based on either grayscale or motion (velocity) information measured in real-time. However, the quantitative assessment of regional myocardial function remains an important goal in clinical cardiology. To do this, ultrasonic strain and strain-rate imaging have been introduced. In the clinical setting, these techniques currently only allow one component of the true three-dimensional deformation to be measured. Clinical, multidimensional strain (rate) information can currently thus only be obtained by combining data acquired using different transducer positions. Nevertheless, given the appropriate postprocessing, the clinical value of these techniques has already been shown. Moreover, multidimensional strain and strain-rate estimation of the heart in vivo by means of a single ultrasound acquisition has been shown to be feasible. In this paper, the new techniques of ultrasonic strain rate and strain imaging of the heart are reviewed in terms of definitions, data acquisition, strain-rate estimation, postprocessing, and parameter extraction. Their clinical validation and relevance are discussed using clinical examples on relevant cardiac pathology. Based on these examples, suggestions are made for future developments of these techniques.