Signs Your Ultrasound Probe Needs Repairs
Ultrasound machines are a very important diagnostic tool for the medical industry, albeit an expensive one. In the medical industry, the ultrasound has moved beyond monitoring pregnant mothers and their babies. Ultrasound now adopts AI and 3D and 4D imaging capabilities to create detailed images. The sophistication and advanced technology mean the designing and building process costs a lot more, so the machine does as well. Even though ultrasound machines are expensive, they’re not a luxury item for hospitals and clinics. They are a vital, life-saving tool that doctors and health care professionals rely on daily.
The high price tag means that when a machine breaks down, simply buying a new one isn’t in the cards. Thankfully, even though they are highly technical machines, it is still possible and easy to repair them. Trained technicians can repair most anything wrong with the machine on site. Before the machine has a full break down, there will likely be warning signs that something is wrong. It’s important to pay attention to the performance of your machine and the condition of the individual components before things get bad. A malfunctioning ultrasound can lead to misdiagnosis of patients and bigger problems down the road. Watch for these signs your ultrasound probe needs repairs to ensure you can help patients and keep them in good health.
The housing of the probe gets a lot of abuse day after day. Manufacturers design this component to consist of durable plastic in case someone drops, abuses, or mistreats it. However, repetitive drops and regular handling of the probe make cracks and chips in the casing inevitable. Over time, those cracks will get worse and the performance of the probe will suffer. The noise created by vibrations in the probe is a good sign that the probe needs fixing. If the casing no longer fits snug, it will cause the noise, and eventually, fall apart.
Shadows and Light
When shadows and light areas appear on the image, there is a problem. Many people refer to this as a dropout, but it is a different kind of dropout. You will start to see areas in the image that are dark—almost black. Conversely, there will be areas that are so bright the image appears washed out, making it hard to see the complete image. The bond holding the lenses in place starts to weaken and detaches from the probe, causing the light and dark spots. Over time, the lenses will become looser and eventually fall off completely. This is another minor problem that will become a big one if left untreated.
Cracked Strain Relief
The strain relief is the area of the probe at the bottom of the handle where the cable meets the probe. Damage to this part of the machine is likely to occur to the transducer connector and the cable sheath. The cracking and early wear is easy to spot because professionals handle that portion of the probe the most. Once there is separation from the probe and the cables become exposed, deterioration happens fast. It may seem like a superficial problem, but the more cables that have exposure, the more susceptible to damage the machine is.
The probe lens is very small but still prone to hairline cracks and fractures. The lines may not be visible at first, but over time, they will become more prominent. Cracks like this can affect picture quality by skewing the sound waves as they leave the probe. That minor change in the waves makes the viewing area harder to see and, in turn, makes it harder to diagnose the patient. There is also the potential for the cracks to make patients ill. The cracks can harbor bacteria and then pass them on to other patients, exposing them to disease. Using cleaners and disinfectants that are alcohol-based will dry out the lenses prematurely and lead to cracking. As such, be sure to use an approved cleaner or gel that the manufacturer recommends reducing the chances this happens.
Lines on the Screen
Black lines on the monitor are not normal and a sign that something is wrong with the probe. Also known as “dropout,” these lines happen when one of the piezoelectric crystals stops sending and receiving signals. Dropouts start small in the form of faint little lines that don’t obscure much and are more an annoyance. They can also appear to the side of the screen. These lines are relatively harmless, but they are the first signs something is wrong, and you shouldn’t ignore them. If you get to the point the lines are thick and obscure the image, the chance for missing something important increases. Additionally, the black lines are the absence of an image, and in that area could be a tumor or life-threatening growth. Don’t take any chances and have the probe serviced immediately.
Damage to the Cable Sheath
If there are small cuts, cracks, and damage to the plastic sheath on the cable, do not dismiss it. When parts and systems on such an expensive machine start showing wear, the sooner you address it, the cheaper it will be to fix. Waiting will only exacerbate the problem and lead to higher repair costs. Running over the cable with wheels and chair legs as well as daily abuse can lead to cracks and encourage the cable to fray. Further, electricity runs through the cables, so overlooking damage to them can lead to electrocution. Plus, touching the exposed wires will leave the technician and patients open to shocks.
This refers to the point of connection between the probe cable and the machine. Broken locking affects portable ultrasounds more than standard ones. Some manufacturers, such as General Electric and their GE Voluson, are better than others at making locking mechanisms. Connectors can take on a lot of abuse; however, quick, off-center pulling far from the connection will wear down even the most rugged connectors. As they wear, they become harder to plugin and make it harder for the technician to perform their job. Pulling cables close to the connection point is the proper way and will extend their life.