As the role of the general surgeon continues to evolve, the surgeon's use of ultrasound imaging will surely influence practice patterns, particularly for the evaluation of patients in the acute setting. With the use of real-time imaging, the surgeon receives "instantaneous" information to augment the physical examination, to narrow the differential diagnosis, or to initiate an intervention. With select ultrasound examinations, the surgeon can rapidly evaluate adult and pediatric patients with an acute abdomen, especially those patients who are hypotensive. In the hands of the surgeon, this noninvasive, bedside tool can assess more accurately the presence, depth, and extent of an abscess, confirm complete aspiration, or diagnose wound dehiscence before it is apparent on physical examination. Ultrasound imaging is so accurate for the diagnosis of pyloric stenosis that it has essentially replaced the upper gastrointestinal series in most institutions. The surgeon's use of ultrasound imaging to detect a pleural effusion has virtually supplanted the lateral decubitus radiograph. Furthermore, an ultrasound-guided thoracentesis not only facilitates the procedure but improves its safety. As surgeons become more facile with ultrasound imaging, it is anticipated that other uses will develop to further enhance its value for the assessment of patients in the acute setting.
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