Feasibility and potential clinical utility of goal-directed transthoracic echocardiography performed by noncardiologist intensivists using a small hand-carried device (SonoHeart) in critically ill patients

J Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2005 Apr;19(2):155-9. doi: 10.1053/j.jvca.2005.01.023.


Objective: This study was designed to assess the clinical applicability of a small, handheld, portable transthoracic echocardiography device by noncardiologist intensivists.

Design: Prospective, observational study. After 10 one-hour tutorials, intensivists performed a limited transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) (2-4 views, without Doppler or M-mode) examination with the 5.6-lb SonoHeart Echo System (SonoSite, Bethell, WA) on critically ill patients admitted to the surgical intensive care unit. After initial cardiac clinical assessment in 90 patients, a limited TTE was performed by an intensivist to assess left ventricular (LV) function and LV volume status. Each study was immediately reviewed and repeated by an echocardiographer to determine the technical quality of the TTE and the accuracy of the intensivist's interpretation. Data were analyzed and presented in proportions using descriptive statistics.

Setting: Surgical intensive care unit of an academic medical center.

Participants: Ninety critically ill adult patients.

Interventions: After initial cardiac clinical assessment, a limited TTE was performed by an intensivist to assess LV size and function, to rule out significant pericardial effusions, and to estimate circulatory volume.

Results: Intensivists successfully performed a diagnostic limited TTE in 94% of patients and interpreted their studies correctly in 84%. Limited TTE provided new cardiac information and changed management in 37% of patients. TTE added useful information in an additional 47% of patients but did not alter immediate management. The mean "goal-directed TTE" acquisition time was 10.5 +/- 4.2 minutes.

Conclusion: After a brief formal training in using this handheld echocardiographic system in intensive care unit patients, surgical intensivists successfully performed and correctly interpreted a limited TTE in critically ill patients. Limited TTE provided new information and altered management in a significant number of patients. This study supports incorporating bedside goal-directed, limited TTE into intensivists' training programs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Volume / physiology
  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Echocardiography / instrumentation*
  • Echocardiography / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Contraction / physiology
  • Pericardial Effusion / diagnostic imaging
  • Prospective Studies
  • Ventricular Function, Left