OBJECTIVE: The authors evaluate surgeon-performed ultrasound in determining the need for operation in patients with possible cardiac wounds. BACKGROUND DATA: Ultrasound quickly is becoming part of the surgeon's diagnostic armamentarium; however, its role for the patient with penetrating injury is less well-defined. Although accurate for the detection of hemopericardium, the lack of immediate availability of the cardiologist to perform the test may delay the diagnosis, adversely affecting patient outcome. To be an effective diagnostic test in trauma centers, ultrasound must be immediately available in the resuscitation area and performed and interpreted by surgeons. METHODS: Surgeons performed pericardial ultrasound examinations on patients with penetrating truncal wounds but no immediate indication for operation. The subcostal view detected hemopericardium, and patients with positive examinations underwent immediate operation by the same surgeon. Vital signs, base deficit, time from examination to operation, operative findings, treatment, and outcome were recorded. RESULTS: During 13 months, 247 patients had surgeon-performed ultrasound. There were 236 true-negative and 10 true-positive results, and no false-negative or false-positive results; however, the pericardial region could not be visualized in one patient. Sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy were 100%; mean examination time was 0.8 minute (246 patients). Of the ten true-positive examinations, three were hypotensive. The mean time (8 patients) from ultrasound to operation was 12.1 minutes; all survived. Operative findings (site of cardiac wounds) were: left ventricle (4), right ventricle (3), right atrium (2), right atrium/superior vena cava (1), and right atrium/inferior vena cava (1). CONCLUSIONS: Surgeon-performed ultrasound is a rapid and accurate technique for diagnosing hemopericardium. Delay times from admission to operating room are minimized when the surgeon performs the ultrasound examination. Images Figure 2. Figure 3.