Ultrasound transducers are highly-specialized machines that are critical in diagnosing various patient conditions and helping facilitate their treatment. Given that inaccurate or, worse, faulty readings can result in providing the wrong treatment to a patient, it's imperative that an ultrasound transducer is always in optimal condition.
Now, we all know that damage from extended use is inevitable. It happens to all machines. However, in our experience, a lot of unnecessary, inexpensive repair or replacement occurs because of improper care, maintenance, and handling. To ensure you get a good return on your investment as well as provide accurate results to your patients, below are some of the things that can damage your ultrasound transducer and a few tips on how to prevent it.
#1: Isopropyl alcohol-based products
One would think that as a disinfectant, isopropyl alcohol would be one of the best ways to keep your machine clean and prevent cross-contamination. After all, you want to make sure that your patients get better, not worse. However, this is probably one case where going beyond what is recommended will not provide you with extra protection from transmitting diseases. Because of the delicate nature of ultrasound transducers, a solution that is 70% alcohol or less can only be used on certain parts of the machine without damaging it. For example, only the connector housing as well as the transducer housing and lens of a non-TEE transducer can be cleaned using isopropyl alcohol. Other parts of the transducer such as the USB connectors, cable, and strain reliefs cannot be cleaned using this kind of solution because they will get damaged.
If you wish to prevent cross-contamination and ensure patient safety, it is highly recommended that you follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions to a “T.” Not only will the OEM’s manual inform you of how you can clean the transducer, it will also list all the disinfectants that are compatible with their machines.
Keep in mind that using non-recommended disinfectants that end up damaging your unit may not be covered by your warranty or service contract.
Dust is one of the things that can damage your transducer and affect performance as well as the machine’s reliability. Now, one might think that the softest bristles can be used to gently swipe away any dust that lingers in the nooks and crannies of your machine. It is, after all, the easiest way to get dust out. But even those that feel oh-so-soft on your skin can damage the lens materials. The only time you can use a very soft-bristled brush is when you clean the metal surfaces of the connector of a Philips non-TEE transducers. To be sure you don’t end up damaging your transducer, check the OEM manual if brushes are allowed to clean parts of your machine. If it isn’t allowed, a soft microfiber cloth will do.
#3: Direct sunlight & Excessive Moisture
Never store your ultrasound transducer in an area where it is exposed to direct sunlight or extreme temperature. Just like us, the machine can get damaged by the sun. Extreme and rapid changes in temperature and exposure to a strong ultraviolet light source can also cause damage to your machine.
#4: Paper towel
If you’re display screen is dirty, never use a paper towel to clean it as it will scratch the screen. You might as well have used a sharp object to clean it. That’s how sensitive the display screen is. Instead, use medical grade disinfectant wipes for ultrasound, gentle enough not to cause any damage. Cleaning instructions also usually suggest a blotting motion instead of a wiping motion to prevent damage.
#5: Untrained personnel
When it comes to your ultrasound transducer, nothing can damage it more than untrained personnel. A lot of damage can be done in cleaning, using, transporting, and storing your machine if the person doing so is untrained. Careless handling can result in broken lenses and cracked housing. Nicks and cracks can cause fluids to seep into the machine which will not only damage the machine but may transmit diseases to your staff and, worse, your patients. An untrained employee may also not be so careful in tucking away cables which can result in your machine’s wheels running over any dangling cables.
Damage prevention is easy enough to do. Educating your staff in the proper care and handling of ultrasound transducers is one. This will ensure that accidental damage rarely, if ever, occurs. Aside from making sure that your staff are all trained, it is important that you also create a rigorous inspection schedule. Early detection of small nicks as well as wear and tear will save you money in the long run. Not only will the repair be minimal, you’ll also be avoiding having to pay a huge amount of money for a replacement. More importantly, you can prevent infecting your patients and personnel.