A two-dimensional (2D) echocardiogram is a medical imaging study of the heart that a doctor might recommend to learn more about a heart condition or to follow up on a patient's treatment. In this study, the heart, a three-dimensional organ, is rendered in a two-dimensional picture. There are a number of approaches to echocardiography, and a patient might need several imaging studies to gather as much information possible about the condition of the heart.
One type of 2D echocardiogram provides a picture of the heart in the chest, using ultrasound waves to help the doctor determine the exact size, location and shape of the organ. It is possible to get a slice of the inside of the heart by using ultrasound imaging, to look inside the chambers and identify issues such as valve malformations. The doctor also can request an ultrasound with Doppler technology to trace the movement of blood through the chambers of the heart and the neighboring blood vessels.
Two-dimensional images tend to be more limited in nature. A skilled technician can get a clear, crisp picture of the heart with the right machinery, but the 2D echocardiogram might not provide as much information as a three-dimensional imaging study. The doctor cannot rotate or manipulate the image to look from a new angle, for example, and thus could miss issues that might be more visible on a different kind of imaging study.
When a doctor recommends a 2D echocardiogram, the patient can ask why the doctor thinks the test is advisable and what options are available. The test might be done transthoracically, by pushing an ultrasound transducer against the chest, or transesophageally, with the assistance of a transducer lowered into the trachea. The transesophageal test is more invasive but tends to yield better pictures. This can be important for a 2D echocardiogram when the doctor wants as much data as possible in the flat image.
The 2D echocardiogram does not take very long. In some cases, a doctor might be able to discuss the results right away. In others, the doctor needs to review the images before meeting with the patient and might prefer to wait for a chance to thoroughly evaluate the test results rather than speculating on what might be visible in the pictures right after the test. If a doctor does identify an issue, additional testing might help with the diagnostic process, or the doctor could move forward to diagnosis and the recommendation of treatment.