Saturday, February 4, 2012

What Kind of Machine Do I Buy?

What kind of ultrasound machine should I buy?
Many people visit our booth at veterinary convention exhibit halls to ask this question.  It is a very good question but will take some time to give a good answer.  I will divide this into four topics:

1.       List the ultrasound procedures you want to do
2.       Search for a machine that will support the applications you want to do
3.       Look for a machine that is user friendly
4.       Ask what kind of training is available 

Assess your wants and needs:   you need to decide what kind of ultrasound procedures you want to be able to perform BEFORE you start researching equipment.  If your practice is limited to small animals, do you want to limit yourself to abdominal ultrasound only, or would you like to expand to cardiac ultrasound some day?  Are you interested in exotic animals or reproduction studies?  If you are limited to large animal practice, do you want to do tendons, reproduction, cardiac, and abdominal studies?  If you are in a mixed animal practice, do you want to do everything?  Make a list of the types of procedures you want to be able to perform.  If you have multiple doctors in your practice, enlist them in the decision making process. 

 WHY?  The cost of your unit will depend upon the requirements you place on it. Your basic unit is hardware consisting of a computer processor (also known as the platform) attached to transducers (which gather the information that feeds the processor and a screen (which displays the images generated by the processor).  Most new ultrasound units display very good to excellent images.  Transducers, though versatile, tend to be task specific so it is important to know what tasks you want to perform.   The platforms depend upon software written to accomplish specific tasks:  creating an image, measurement and labeling packages, filing, retrieving data etc.  If your facility is computerized, you may also want to ask if the units you are considering are easily compatible with your current image storage system.
So, when looking for an ultrasound unit, it is very important for you to have a list of the types of procedures you want to perform, the types of patients you serve in your practice, and the kind of record storage you use in your clinic or hospital.

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