Which Cardiac Structure Lies Nearby? Revisiting Two-Dimensional Cross-Sectional Anatomy

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Two-dimensional (2D) transthoracic echocardiography is one of the most used diagnostic tools in clinical cardiology. Similarly, 2D transesophageal echocardiography is considered an indispensable tool for cardiologists and cardiac anesthesiologists worldwide. However, because of their tomographic nature, both techniques display only thin cut planes of a given area of the heart, which are far from representing the “anatomic reality.” It is widely accepted that experienced echocardiographers are able to reconstruct mentally a three-dimensional image of any cardiac structure on the basis of their interpretation of multiple tomographic slices. However, this may not be the case with less experienced echocardiographers. In particular, the authors noticed that less experienced echocardiographers are almost totally unaware of which structures lie “nearby” a given 2D tomographic plane, that is, what is adjacent in the elevation plane. In this article, the authors report the use of three-dimensional transesophageal echocardiographic images to discover which structures are located nearby (i.e., “behind” and “in front”) the corresponding 2D cross-sections. The authors believe that this novel use of three-dimensional echocardiography is a unique aid to disclose what cannot be seen in a given 2D cross-section, thereby expanding our understanding of 2D echocardiographic anatomy. This may be an effective method to encourage all to “think” in three dimensions, even when they use 2D echocardiography.HIGHLIGHTS2D echocardiography provides thin cross-sections of a given cardiac structure.Experienced echocardiographers can reconstruct 3D images based on 2D cross-sections.Less experienced echocardiographers are unaware of which structures lie “nearby”.3D echocardiography can disclose what we do not see in a given 2D cross-section.3D echocardiography helps thinking in 3D even when 2D echocardiography is used.

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