This view of the heart is provided by big--or, more accurately, small--advances in cardiac ultrasound. Echocardiograms often use a sonar transmitter placed on the patient's chest to image the heart in a noninvasive manner, based on the ways high-frequency sound waves bounce off body parts. For some types of examination, though, other body parts make it difficult to get a clear view of the heart. The solution: Send a miniature probe down the esophagus.
This view of the mitral valve was taken using a transesophageal probe that can capture 3-D images in real time. By showing live, close-up video, the device is uniquely positioned to show how well the heart is functioning. In this case, the patient has had a ring placed in the mitral valve to repair it; the sutures appear as spots dotting the ring.
Heart ultrasounds are often needed at bedside, but transportable instruments have had limited performance. This new technology offers a solution.