The history of echocardiography

Ultrasound Med Biol. 2004 Dec;30(12):1565-644. doi: 10.1016/S0301-5629(99)00056-3.


Following a brief review of the development of medical ultrasonics from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, the collaboration between Edler and Hertz that began in Lund in 1953 is described. Using an industrial ultrasonic flaw detector, they obtained time-varying echoes transcutaneously from within the heart. The first clinical applications of M-mode echocardiography were concerned with the assessment of the mitral valve from the shapes of the corresponding waveforms. Subsequently, the various M-mode recordings were related to their anatomical origins. The method then became established as a diagnostic tool and was taken up by investigators outside Lund, initially in China, Germany, Japan and the USA and, subsequently, world-wide. The diffusion of echocardiography into clinical practice depended on the timely commercial availability of suitable equipment. The discovery of contrast echocardiography in the late 1960s further validated the technique and extended the range of applications. Two-dimensional echocardiography was first demonstrated in the late 1950s, with real-time mechanical systems and, in the early 1960s, with intracardiac probes. Transesophageal echocardiography followed, in the late 1960s. Stop-action two-dimensional echocardiography enjoyed a brief vogue in the early 1970s. It was, however, the demonstration by Bom in Rotterdam of real-time two-dimensional echocardiography using a linear transducer array that revolutionized and popularized the subject. Then, the phased array sector scanner, which had been demonstrated in the late 1960s by Somer in Utrecht, was applied to cardiac studies from the mid-1970s onwards. Satomura had demonstrated the use of the ultrasonic Doppler effect to detect tissue motion in Osaka in the mid-1950s and the technique was soon afterwards applied in the heart, often in combination with M-mode recording. The development of the pulsed Doppler method in the late 1960s opened up new opportunities for clinical innovation. The review ends with a mention of color Doppler echocardiography. (E-mail:

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Echocardiography / history*
  • Echocardiography / instrumentation
  • Echocardiography, Doppler / history
  • Germany
  • Heart Diseases / congenital
  • Heart Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Diseases / history
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Mitral Valve Stenosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Mitral Valve Stenosis / history
  • Ultrasonics / history
  • United States