A real-time NMR cardiac profiling pulse sequence has been developed that incorporates two-dimensional (2D) selective excitation and a half-echo readout. The time resolution has been improved by a factor of two relative to the previous flow-compensated, full-echo version. The technique produces a 2D plot of "beam"-axis position versus time, analogous to M-mode echocardiography. In human subjects, details of valve leaflet motion, intracardiac flow, wall motion, and wall thickening may be observed along optimal lines of sight selected interactively. The pulse sequence uses a low-tip-angle 2D selective-excitation pulse derived from a spiral k-space trajectory to excite a narrow cylinder of magnetization, followed by a half-echo readout gradient oriented along the axis of the cylinder. One-dimensional Fourier transformation of the acquired signal results in a magnetization profile along the length of the cylinder, or beam. The pulse sequence is effectively flow compensated without any additional gradient lobes, because the rapid oscillation in the gradient wave forms of the 2D excitation pulse produces relatively small net gradient moments, and the shortened readout gradient has minimal first-order moment relative to center echo. The signal from moving blood can alternatively be velocity encoded by the addition of bipolar gradients along any of the three axes, producing Doppler-like traces of intracardiac blood flow.