Ultrasound System Failure Modes
Even though an ultrasound machine is a highly technical and superbly engineered piece of equipment, it’s still a machine, and machines break. It’s a fact of life that no matter how well a machine is cared for, it will break at some point. Parts begin to wear down over after a lot of use, leading to their eventual failure. Routine maintenance and inspections can minimize breakage and downtime. This also applies to the software and systems that allow the ultrasound to function. Ultrasound system failure modes occur in many capacities. Let’s look at a few.
Hard failures are catastrophic and usually easy to diagnose. They are traceable back to a certain board, power supply, monitor, or transducer probe, and the issue will be obvious. Hard failures center around the hardware, hence the name, and any issue they are experiencing. Failures in this category tend to cluster around the weakest points in the design of the machine. Things that heat up, switch fast, or are susceptible to physical damage like probes.
Soft failures typically occur on the backend of the machine. The backend of the system refers to anything that is responsible for display processing. That’s the CPU, software, and anything that directly relates to the creation of the image on the screen. Soft failures are usually logged on the systems error log, which the technician should have access to. This will show where the error is, but the log isn’t always accurate in the description or location of a problem.
Intermittent problems like software anomalies and failure reports stemming from operator error are the hardest to track down. These ultrasound system failure modes require higher levels of troubleshooting and investigating. In this case, the technician is integral to diagnosis because they are the likely cause of the failure. Anything that they can touch or use to operate the ultrasound machine, like knobs, dials, and screens, are potential failure points.
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