- Many patients come to the emergency department with complaints related to the soft tissues, such as infection, injury, and abnormal masses.
- Traditionally, computed tomography and magnetic resonance have been used when imaging studies are needed in these patients; however, ultrasound is generally more readily available and in some instances is the preferred imaging study.1
- The most common use of bedside ultrasound in patients with soft-tissue abnormalities is in the evaluation of infections, including cellulitis, abscess, and necrotizing fasciitis. Other soft-tissue indications include the evaluation of cysts and lymph nodes. Ultrasound is also used to locate foreign bodies.
- Although the majority of abscesses are treated with incision and drainage, in certain cases, usually because of cosmesis, treatment with needle aspiration and antibiotics becomes an option. Ozseker and colleagues found that ultrasound-guided aspiration and irrigation of breast abscesses was preferred to surgical drainage for abscesses with a diameter less than 3 cm.2 Ultrasound provides dynamic real-time guidance for needle aspiration, increasing the likelihood of success.