Caring for critically ill patients requires rapid and accurate diagnosis followed by prompt interventions. The physical examination remains an important part of the assessment of such patients, but it has been shown to have a low sensitivity and specificity in judging left ventricular function and intravascular volume. Invasive hemodynamic monitoring has similarly been shown to have significant limitations and has failed to demonstrate a mortality benefit in several recent studies. In some studies, it has been shown to be harmful. Focused transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) has emerged as a noninvasive and portable imaging technique that is capable of providing rapid and accurate information about the heart at the bedside. It can be used to complement the physical examination and result in marked improvement in diagnostic accuracy. Focused TTE can be used as a screening and monitoring tool. Studies have shown that clinicians can be trained to determine left ventricular function, detect pericardial effusions, predict intravenous fluid responsiveness, and identify important valvular defects in a relatively short period. This article describes the indications for focused TTE, provides evidence that clinicians can be rapidly taught the technique, reviews how the focused studies affect management, and discusses the advantages and limitations of this tool. © Postgraduate Medicine.