Bedside echocardiography in the assessment of the critically ill.
- Yanick Beaulieu
- Critical care medicine
Miniaturized echocardiography units known as hand carried ultrasound (HCU) now exist with features similar to those used for standard echocardiography. The small size and low cost of these units may lead to increased availability of echocardiography to be performed by all physicians taking care of critically ill patients. Use of HCU by critical care physicians may allow for improved bedside diagnosis with improved accuracy over physical examination. Studies comparing HCU with standard echocardiography in the critical care setting have reported that HCU is limited by decreased image quality and that it may miss important diagnoses even when used by experienced sonographers and echocardiographers. Despite its limitations, however, HCU can often answer important clinical questions in the critically ill. This review explores the current literature on the use of HCU in the critical care setting, discusses the limitations of HCU, and examines the costs of implementing this new technology.