During the past several years, the American Medical Association's Council on Long Range Planning and Development has identified trends in the environment of medicine that are likely to affect physicians, their practices, and the provision of medical care in the future. In the course of its environmental analysis studies, the Council has recognized that each medical specialty is uniquely subject to anticipated changes in the environment of medicine. As part of an ongoing series of analyses prepared by the Council, this report focuses on environmental trends that are likely to influence the practice of general surgery. The report outlines the current state of general surgery, the forces for change in the environment, and the implications regarding these changes. The Council concludes that there are certain challenges and many positive indicators for the future of general surgery.