Although the stethoscope has been an important part of the bedside cardiac diagnostic examination for generations of physicians, this clinical tool has been relatively unchanged in over 150 years. Echocardiography is established as an essential diagnostic imaging method for patients with known or suspected cardiovascular diseases. However, routine echocardiography systems are large and heavy, and although they are portable, they remain inconvenient for bedside patient rounds. Technologic advances have resulted in miniaturization of electronic components and small, lightweight ultrasound systems have been recently introduced. These hand-carried units offer clinically acceptable two-dimensional image quality for rapid "quick-look" bedside diagnostics, in particular focusing on global and regional left ventricular function and presence or absence of pericardial effusion. This article proposes a general approach to the rapid hand-carried ultrasound cardiac exam as an extension of the physical examination. It details case examples and reviews the initial clinical experience of hand-carried ultrasound on cardiac consultation rounds. Hand-carried ultrasound has promise to have an immediate impact on bedside patient management though expediting and facilitating the delivery of medical care.
- Left ventricular function
- Pericardial effusion