Miniaturisation of machines has allowed echocardiography to be performed in the community as well as anywhere in the hospital. It has led to an expansion of the types of study performed: ultrasonic stethoscope, screening and focused studies, and standard echocardiograms. In expert hands, results compare favourably with standard studies on full systems. With focused studies, abnormalities may be missed in areas of the heart that are not imaged. For screening studies, the negative predictive accuracy is high while the positive predictive accuracy is lower.
Portable echocardiography can save time and costs, but it is essential that studies are requested and performed within a tightly controlled clinical setting. Operators should be trained appropriately and be part of a broad echocardiography service that includes quality control, continuing education and expert supervision.