A new kind of ultrasound machine is making its way into the pockets of doctors around the world.

The machines used to be confined to clunky computers that had to be carted around. Now, new handheld devices about the size of a smartphone allow doctors to image patients instantly.

“We can diagnose an acute heart attack, fluid around the heart, figure out why someone’s valve is not working in five minutes instead of an hour,” said Dr. Stephen Archer, head of medicine at Queen's University and Kingston General Hospital. “And those minutes can make a big difference”

Ultrasound machines use sound at a frequency above the human range of hearing to create pictures of patients’ insides. New devices, like the one GE debuted in 2009, transmit the image directly to a small, portable screen, making it easier for doctors to make crucial decisions.

“You can take this device and get a scan of the patient's ultrasound of the heart immediately right at the bedside,” said Dr. Amer Johri, a cardiologist at Kingston General Hospital.

“This device gives us an idea of the severity of their condition and so physicians at that time can make a better judgment call as to whether they need to be admitted.”

These machines are beginning to appear in hospitals, clinics and ambulances, as well in the hands of the future generation of doctors.

Johri trains his medical school students using both simulators and real people, like Ross Ramsay, who has a heart murmur.

The result is a quicker, simpler experience for doctors and patients alike.

“Technology, the way it is nowadays, smaller items can work just as well as the larger more-difficult-to-manoeuver-around units,” said Ramsay.

With a report from CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip