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Published on August 29, 2018

Garry Rains, MD, had not been at UNC Lenoir Health Care very long before his use of point of care ultrasound began positively impacting his patients.  Dr. Rains, anesthesiologist, is one of a very small percentage of anesthesiologists in the country who are using advanced ultrasound to not only monitor organ function during surgery, but also to place local anesthesia in exact locations to control pain in surgical patients.  Ultrasound allows him to locate the nerves that carry pain messages from the surgical site, and block the nerves so the pain messages do not reach the patient’s brain.  In addition, he administers a variety, sometimes as many as nine, non-opioid medications to control pain.  Frequently, his patients experience needed pain control without the use of any opioid drugs.  But what he likes most about the ultrasound technology, is that it allows him to observe his patient’s heart and other organs in real time without the risk of radiation based visualizations like x-ray.  Ultrasound is also more sensitive than x-ray for some problems.


Ultrasound does not use radiation to create images; it uses sound waves. Much like the sonar in submarines, physicians can “map” the area they need to study by painlessly placing a probe on the surface of the body.  A screen produces an image that allows the physician to see exactly what is going on inside the body.  “Ultrasound is the new stethoscope.  The use of point of care ultrasound to visualize the heart and lungs during surgery allows me to know what the patient needs in real time.  Knowing how my patients are tolerating surgery gives me the information I need to provide the best possible care,” explained Dr. Rains.  “The protocols I use provide my patients with less pain without opioid medications, less complications, and a quicker recovery time - better outcomes for the patients, which is why we are here.”


Dr. Rains learned this use of ultrasound eight years ago while living in rural Wyoming.  He and his wife got tired of the incapacitating snow and decided to move to San Francisco to be closer to one of their two daughters.  In California, the traffic was as incapacitating as the Wyoming snow, so they decided to move to North Carolina to be closer to their other daughter.  Rains and his wife moved to Kinston about a year ago and are enjoying the small town life.


Dr. Rains is a graduate of PENN Medicine Anesthesiology and Critical Care in Philadelphia, and holds an advanced ultrasound certificate from Aarhus University, Denmark.