Three-dimensional and four-dimensional ultrasonography were pioneered in the 1960s yet have been used little clinically. Only recently have advances in cardiovascular ultrasound equipment and in digital image storage, manipulation, and display techniques made three- and four-dimensional imaging clinically feasible. In this report, we review the historical development of these technologies during 3 decades to their culmination in current state-of-the-art technology. Examples of such multidimensional images are presented, with special emphasis on clinical applications. Although several limitations persist, three-dimensional cardiovascular ultrasonography seems likely to enhance imaging of the heart and vessels in a manner similar to the advent of two-dimensional echocardiography in the M-mode era. Clinician-scientists will soon be able to extract an object, such as the heart, from the body electronically for the purpose of anatomic, functional, and histologic analysis without adverse effect on the patient.
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