Bedside goal-directed ultrasound is a powerful tool for rapid differential diagnosis and monitoring of cardiopulmonary disease in the critically ill patient population. The bedside intensivist is in a unique position to integrate ultrasound findings with the overall clinical situation. Medically critically ill patients who require urgent bedside diagnostic assessment fall into 2 categories: (1) acute respiratory failure and (2) hemodynamic derangements. The first portion of this review outlines the diagnostic role of bedside ultrasound in the medically critically ill patient population for the diagnosis and treatment of acute respiratory failure, acute respiratory distress, and severe hypoxemia. The second portion will focus on the diagnostic role of ultrasound for the evaluation and treatment of shock states, as well as describe protocolized approaches for evaluation of shock during cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Different respiratory system pathologies that result in acute respiratory failure (such as increased interstitial fluid, alveolar consolidation, pleural effusion) cause characteristic ultrasonographic findings; diaphragmatic assessment may also add information. Intracardiac shunting can cause severe hypoxemia. Protocolized approaches for the evaluation of patients with acute respiratory failure or distress are discussed.