The non-invasive quantification of regional myocardial function is an important goal in clinical cardiology. Myocardial thickening/thinning indices is one method of attempting to define regional myocardial function. A new ultrasonic method of quantifying regional deformation has been introduced based on the principles of ‘strain’ and ‘strain rate’ imaging. These new imaging modes introduce concepts derived from mechanical engineering which most echocardiographers are not familiar with. In order to maximally exploit these new techniques, an understanding of what they measure is indispensable. This paper will define each of these modalities in terms of physical principles and will give an introduction to the principles of data acquisition and processing required to implement ultrasonic strain and strain rate imaging. In addition, the current status of development of the technique and its limitations will be discussed, together with examples of potential clinical applications.

Author notes

correspondence: Jan D'hooge, University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Department of Cardiology, Herestraat 49, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.