Contrast-Enhanced High-Frame-Rate Ultrasound Imaging of Flow Patterns in Cardiac Chambers and Deep Vessels

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Cardiac function and vascular function are closely related to the flow of blood within. The flow velocities in these larger cavities easily reach 1 m/s, and generally complex spatiotemporal flow patterns are involved, especially in a non-physiologic state. Visualization of such flow patterns using ultrasound can be greatly enhanced by administration of contrast agents. Tracking the high-velocity complex flows is challenging with current clinical echographic tools, mostly because of limitations in signal-to-noise ratio; estimation of lateral velocities; and/or frame rate of the contrast-enhanced imaging mode. This review addresses the state of the art in 2-D high-frame-rate contrast-enhanced echography of ventricular and deep-vessel flow, from both technological and clinical perspectives. It concludes that current advanced ultrasound equipment is technologically ready for use in human contrast-enhanced studies, thus potentially leading to identification of the most clinically relevant flow parameters for quantifying cardiac and vascular function.