Objective: We sought to determine whether physicians with training in echocardiography could successfully use a small echocardiographic device to detect occult cardiovascular disease in patients admitted to a general medical service.
Methods: In all, 103 consecutive patients had a physician-performed bedside echocardiographic examination with a small portable ultrasound device.
Results: Of patients, 70% did not have a clinical indication for echocardiography and of these patients, 39% had an abnormal study with the portable ultrasound device. There was a high rate of false-positive examinations, but approximately 17% of patients without a clinical indication for echocardiography had an important cardiac abnormality detected, including 10% with unsuspected left ventricular systolic dysfunction.
Conclusions: Many patients on a general medical hospital ward have unsuspected, clinically important cardiac findings such as left ventricular dysfunction that can be screened for by physicians with training in echocardiography using small portable ultrasound devices.