The Expanding Role of Diagnostic Ultrasound in Plastic Surgery

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Background:Ultrasound in plastic surgery is quickly finding new applications. Ultrasound surveillance may replace ineffective individual risk stratification and chemoprophylaxis for deep venous thromboses. Abdominal penetration can be a catastrophic complication of liposuction. Preoperative screening for fascial defects may reduce risk. Limiting buttock fat injections to the subcutaneous plane is critical for patient safety, but it is difficult to know one’s injection plane.Methods:The author’s use of diagnostic ultrasound was evaluated from May 2017 to May 2018. Ultrasound scans were used routinely to detect deep venous thromboses. Patients undergoing abdominal liposuction and/or abdominoplasty were scanned for possible hernias. Other common applications included the evaluation of breast implants, breast masses, and seroma management. The device was used in surgery in 3 patients to assess the plane of buttock fat injection.Results:One thousand ultrasound scans were performed during the 1-year study period. A distal deep venous thrombosis was detected in 2 patients. In both cases, the thrombosis resolved within 1 month, confirmed by follow-up ultrasound scans. A lateral (tangential) fat injection method was shown to safely deposit fat above the gluteus maximus fascia.Conclusions:Ultrasound scans are highly accurate, noninvasive, and well-tolerated by patients. Some of these applications are likely to improve patient safety. Early detection of deep venous thromboses is possible. Unnecessary anticoagulation may be avoided. Subclinical abdominal defects may be detected. Ultrasound may be used in the office to evaluate breast implants, masses, and seromas. In surgery, this device confirms the level of buttock fat injection.

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