Hand-held imaging devices are widely used in clinical practice and are a useful tool. There is no published review examining the diagnostic parameters achieved with these devices in clinical practice.
We searched three online medical literature databases (PubMed, EMBASE and MEDLINE) for all literature published up until January 2018. We selected studies that (1) were conducted in the adult population; (2) used a truly hand-held device; (3) featured sensitivities and/or specificities on the use of the hand-held scanner. We extracted and summarised the diagnostic metrics from the literature.
Twenty-seven articles were excluded from the initial 56 relevant articles, as the device featured was not truly hand-held. Ultimately a total of 25 studies were analysed. Sixteen studies were carried out by experienced users, seven by users with little previous experience and two studies by nurses. High diagnostic parameters were achieved by all three groups when scanning cardiac pathology and intra-abdominal structures. Training of non-expert users varied, taking a mean of 21.6 h. These hand-held devices can change diagnoses at the bedside and be used as gate-keepers to formal echocardiography. Individual studies show them to be cost-effective.
Hand-held echocardiography is a useful tool in the hands of experts and novices alike. Studies conducted are highly heterogeneous making it difficult to pool data for the diagnostic metrics. Further studies with rigorous methodology are needed to evaluate the true diagnostic potential in the hands of non-experts and in the community as well as to validate training protocols.