Ultrasound devices are important tools when it comes to delivering quality healthcare. TechNation reached out to experts in the field to find out more about ultrasound devices and probes.
Q: What are the latest advances or significant changes in ultrasound probes in the past few years?
Nguyen: The latest and most exciting advancement in ultrasound transducer technology is the added capability of live 3-D imaging during Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) studies. These new TEE transducers utilize complex matrix arrays to obtain significantly more data than standard phased arrays. This allows clinicians to scan and view the human heart with live 3D image data to quickly provide more comprehensive data to better diagnose patients.
Q How will recent ultrasound probe advances impact the ultrasound market in the future? How will they impact the maintenance of probes and ultrasound devices?
Nguyen: Multi-dimensional technology enables clinical technicians to accelerate the image capture and improve the diagnosis by utilizing comprehensive 4-dimensional data that reduce anomalies. Live 3D TEE transducer failures become significantly more difficult to service because the damage from electrical shorts become more catastrophic due to its higher power and smaller form factor. A quality transducer service provider will be able to yield higher repair success rates from these complex devices which will help lower the total cost of ownership of the device. The alternative is a replacement at a much higher cost. Hospital administrators will want to ensure they are working with a reputable and well-trained team of ultrasound support technicians who can repair beyond the component level. This will provide the highest probability of repair success and lower the total cost of support by up to 97 percent relative to OEM replacements.
Q What technologies are worthy of the initial investment? How can a facility with a limited budget meet the ultrasound probe needs of today?
Nguyen: Due to its safe, non-invasive method to obtain images, the reliance on ultrasound technology is escalating in the healthcare system and encroaching into areas where X-ray and CT have been predominantly used. Given the frequency with which ultrasound technologies are being applied, I believe that all ultrasound technologies are worthy of their initial investment. A facility with a limited budget can control equipment service costs with careful handling and sterilization of its transducers, and should consider partnering with a credible ultrasound support organization that can repair transducers and systems with high-quality refurbished and tested replacement parts. This cost-effective approach can maximize the useful life of equipment and save operators as much as 97 percent relative to OEM replacements.
Q What else do you think TechNation readers need to know about purchasing and servicing ultrasound probes?
Nguyen: It is critical to know the testing protocols performed by the supplier prior to purchasing or servicing any transducer. The quality of the product is completely dependent on testing and quality protocols. This should include image quality testing on a live ultrasound system conducted by technicians trained to specifically look for image quality. There is no sufficient replacement to a live ultrasound scan as it is the only reliable method to capture intermittent problems experienced by end users.
Q How can purchasers ensure they are making a wise investment when purchasing ultrasound probes? How can they ensure they will receive the necessary literature and training tools to maintain the probes?
Nguyen: Purchasers have a lot of control over where they procure equipment and how they receive their training. The length of warranty is a strong indicator of quality as companies that repair the products in-house have the capability to support the products and services. For the most part, the independent market supports all of the transducers currently manufactured by the OEMs, providing significant savings on the initial procurement cost. Additionally, purchasers can control the total cost of ownership by using reputable transducer repair companies that guarantee their work and repair the equipment back to OEM specifications. Training literature is available through the OEMs and some independent service providers also provide high-level training enabling users to properly care for their high-value equipment.