In school, I learned very little about the ultrasound machine itself. There is already so much to learn in Ultrasound school right? Between anatomy, physics, and a scanning lab it already feels overwhelming. Also, there are so many different brands and models of ultrasound machines and each one is a little different from the other. Throughout my 20+ years of scanning our machines have gotten so much more complex... ahem …. better! New technology advances the electronics side and with the progressive 3D/4D capabilities, our post processing capabilities have skyrocketed.
Over my 23 years of being an ultrasound technologist, I have learned how to care for my machine and diagnose the basic issues on system and transducers. This is in part to my husband, who I met when he was an ultrasound service engineer 18 years ago, and has been on the machine side of ultrasound for 30+ years. Turns out, it's pretty amazing to be married to someone who speaks my ultrasound language.
There are many types of ultrasound machines that are in production today. I see handheld units everywhere! The portable, laptop machines are great for bedside ultrasounds but the tried and true… the big mama jamas… are the console based units. We are going to talk about the full sized machines as that is where my knowledge base lies. These are the machines that will typically be in your hospitals, out-patient imaging centers, and sometimes in private doctor’s offices.
Here’s what to look for in your assessment of your machine in between PMs.
Your machine should be free of dirt and debris. Typically when a machine is used in a place with linens, there is a lot of lint build up on and around the machine. You should be wiping down your keyboard and touch screens daily with OEM approved cleaners / disinfectants.
Check the buttons on your console. Are they all functioning? Are any stuck?
Check your toggle switches. Do they toggle?
Check your knobs. Do they knobble? (LOL)
Check your touchscreen. Does it respond to your touch?
Check your monitor. Any damage to the screen? Does it move correctly when you adjust it?
Check your console. Is it adjustable as it was intended? Does it move up and down? Does it swivel for correct ergonomics?
Does your trackball move easily?
How is the machine running overall?
How are the connectors on the back of your machine?
Are the filters clean?
Evaluation of your transducers.
How are your cables and strain reliefs? Any cuts or flex induced noise or artifacts?
The probe housing. Are there any cracks?
Are the seals in the scanhead intact?
Any drop outs in the image?
Any tears or degradation on the lenses of your probes?
The connector pins. If you have a transducer that has pins, are any of them damaged?
If you have pin-less transducers the mating plate can be gently cleaned with an alcohol prep pad. This could help reduce noise, artifacts, and possible probe ID issues.
Let’s talk about what a damaged Ultrasound probe looks like for us, as sonographers. Sometimes we know something isn’t quite right, but we don’t know what's wrong. Damage can be from the probe being accidentally dropped (it happens!), normal wear and tear, or a manufacturing defect.
Damaged ultrasound probes can go undetected for quite awhile, as our eyes and skills are extremely good at compensating. If you have a probe that is defective due to damage, wear, or a non-compliant repair a good sonographer may be able to compensate by adjusting gain, power, frequency, etc. But probes that do not meet original OEM standards should be removed from service and repaired immediately.
According to Radiopeadia, some of the most common signs of probe damage on our images are:
This is a loss of continuity of the reverberation pattern. This is most likely due to a piezo element failure.
Disrupted reverberation pattern without signal loss. This is usually less apparent and may be from damage, a weak element, or a manufacturing defect.
Reverberation lines running non-parallel. This causes image distortion. Take that probe out of commission ASAP.
Lens wear and tear:
Initially this change will be subtle with the depth of the reverberations peripherally. Usually caused by Long term normal use.
These are simple things that we, as sonographers, can monitor on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. This machine is the center of our universe when is comes to sonography. It is the yin to our yang! The butter to our bread! The jelly to our donut!! You get the picture right? Take the time to evaluate these things to insure safe and effective patient care and potentially mitigating expensive repairs.
Images taken from: