Ultrasound Probe Repair or Replace ?

 

Ultrasound Probe Reapir

 

The proper working functionality of an Ultrasound Transducer forms the prime basis for an accurate and reliable diagnosis. 

Having a Defective Ultrasound Transducer which is affecting your smooth operations is quite frustrating. You probably don’t know where to start and where to end when it comes to identifying your probe problems and fixing them. 

Here’s a complete and detailed guide on the common problems/faults/defects that are prevalent in your transducer and how to rectify those defects by yourself.

Anything that is out of your reach and control can be approached with the help of ultrasound probe repair specialists.

The blog throws a spotlight on when your probe needs to be repaired and when your probe is to be replaced.

Contents :

1. Inspection of your Ultrasound Transducer

2. Factors that damage the Transducers

3. How to protect your Ultrasound Probe?

4. Ultrasound Transducer Fault Classification and Management

5. Repair VS Replace 

 

1. Inspection of your Ultrasound Transducer

Inspecting your ultrasound transducer is the first and foremost step while identifying the defects.

1. Defective Cable Condition

 They consist of broken, discoloured cables and strain relief. These kinds of defective cable issues create a major impact on the images leading to artifacts / coloured artifacts and noise on the images.

  • Inappropriate cable storage (No usage of protective pouch or cases to store them)
  • The ultrasound machine’s wheels running over the cables
  • Prolonged and extensive usage of the cable over years
  • Broken Strain Relief caused by dropping / bending of the connectors
  • Exposure of the cable to long-term pressure

Fixing such cable conditions can prevent your patients from unwanted electrocution. 

Solutions:

  • Cable Replacement 
  • Cable Resoldering 
  • Transducer replacement (To solve the problem of coloured artifacts in the image)

Cable Resoldering:

Cable Soldering -Ultrasound Probe Repair

Scanning Imaging of Cable issues:

Scanning Images of Cable Issue -Ultrasound Probe Repair

2. Acoustic Lens Issues

A dried-out lens can be caused because improper and unsuited agents and gels containing alcohol are applied on the acoustic membrane lens.

Solution:

Application of manufacturer-approved gel on the lens

Generally, Wear and tear occur on the lens when it has been used over the years. 

  • Cuts
  • Holes
  • Air Gaps
  • Scratches
  • Discolouration
  • Swelling 
  • Improper lens thickness fixed while repair
  • Bubbles 

worsens the lens problems.

These types of defects can expose patients to a higher risk of bacterial infection and cross-contamination.

Solution:

Replace the probe acoustic lens.

Dried-Out Lens:

Dried Out Lens

Cuts and Holes on the lens:

Holes on the probe

Air Gaps / Swelling Membrane:

Air gap swelling on lens

Scanning Images of Lens Issue:

Scanning Images of Lens Issue

3. Crystal Damage

 

Damage in ultrasound probe crystals is due to wear and tear, dropping the probe and hitting the transducer against foreign objects such as gel bottles.

Due to the weakened crystal state, the dropout in the image causes loss of pattern waves.

Usually, dropouts are the black lines on the images. It is mainly due to the reason that the piezoelectric crystals are unable to send and receive signals.

The 2 types of dropouts are namely dead and weak elements.

Weak Elements are the thin light and faint dropouts in the image. Most of the time, they don’t impact the diagnosis.

However, It is one of the clear cut indications where a single/individual element is getting damaged gradually. 

Dead Elements are the thick strong dark dropouts in the image. It indicates that the element is dead and it does impact the diagnosis and affects the patient's safety. Generally, a large number of dead elements in the scan images represent that the transducer is physically damaged.

Solution:

A complete replacement of the probe crystals is the ultimate solution.

Scanning Images of Transducer Issue:

Scanning Images of Transducer Issue

4. Transducer House Assembly Cracks

Cracks on the housing assembly happen when your probe has been dropped or other foreign objects forcibly damaged the probe.

The housing gap in the assembly is caused by the seam line being separated from the nose cone which is to be the fluid gel ingress site.

Housing Crack:

Housing Crack

 

Housing Gap:

Housing Gap -Probe

5. Multiplexer Scanning Image Issue

Multiplexers are usually located at the machine end side or scan head side. The failed multiplexer can pave the way for multiple or dual images.

Solution:

Replacement of multiplexers can resolve such scanning image issues.

 Multiplexer Replacement Board:

 Multiplexer Replacement Board

Multiplexer Scanning Image Problem:

Multiplexer Scanning Image Problem

6. Strain Relief Condition:

 

Strain Relief is generally the point of connection between the probe and cable. Frequent bending can contribute to issues in strain relief.

The absence of On-time intervention of the strain relief conditions may lead to damage of wires in the cable and connectivity issues. Dropouts can happen due to this fault.

Similarly, Noise problems in the images can be caused by the cracks on the strain relief. 

Solution:

It can be avoided using loose connections. Thus, the connection and reconnection of the ultrasound transducer solve the problem.

7. Connector Issues 

The connector pin, and knobs can be damaged due to repeated/ improper motion of insertion and removal. This in turn leads to a broken locking system. 

Solution:

Repairing the System connector resolves the issue

8. Gel Issue / Matching Layer Swelling 

The application of Improper and wrong sterilising agents and gels on the lens can lead to the swelling of the matching layer / acoustic array in the probe.

Over-immersion of the transducer in more than suitable gel levels recommended by the manufacturer can cause the matching layer to be damaged.

The consequence of swelling matching layers is reflected as dropouts in images / shadowed images. On-time intervention in these cases can prevent such effects in the images. 

Solutions:

In Such scenarios, lens or probe replacement seem to be the optimal solution.

 Improper and wrong Gel application Issue:

Improper and wrong Gel application Issue:

 Matching Layer Swelling Issue:

 Matching Layer Swelling Issue

9. Leakage of Probe Oil

While turning the transducer facing downwards and turning it up quickly, can make the oil in the shells of the probe shift. It is quite evident in the 4D and 3D probes. Such leakage causes a wavy black image.

Solution:

Repair the transducer.

Oil leakage issue:

Oil leakage probe

10. Probe Motor

The probe motor has to be replaced or repaired when the probe array is stuck or not in movement.

2. Factors that damages the transducers:

Here’s a couple of factors that damage the ultrasound transducer.

  1. An improper storage environment results in patient cross-contamination or physical damage of your probes.
  2. Exposing the probes to excessive sunlight, temperature or pressure changes and even Ultraviolet light sources.
  3. Brushing the dust in your probe with so-called soft bristles can create damage to the lens.It is better to check with the original equipment manufacturer if a brush can be used to dust off. Alternatively, a soft microfiber cloth can be used to dust off your probe.
  4. Dropping the ultrasound transducer results in damage.
  5. Usage of Isopropyl alcohol solution of 70% to clean all the parts of the probe can result in damage. For example, Cables, strain relief and USB Connectors of the non-TEE ultrasound transducer should not be cleaned using isopropyl alcohol. Check with the original equipment manufacturer manual before using the solution.
  6. Electric Signal discharging on the transducer connectors and lens is one of the factors that create the damage.
  7. Over disinfecting the probe causes damage to the lens.
  8. Bending, stretching, twisting and pulling your probe cables increases the damage intensity.
  9. Not using a probe holder when it is not in use can actually cause damage. 
  10. The incorrect way of handling the probes while cleaning and disinfection can lead to damage.

3. So, the next question is: How do I protect my Ultrasound probe?

How do I protect my ultrasound probe?

4. Ultrasound Transducer Fault Classification and Management:

 

Here is a detailed classification of ultrasound transducer faults and the immediate actions to be undertaken to prevent any kind of cross-contamination, and patient misdiagnosis.

 

                                                 RED SIGNS:

 

Probe Fault Categories

Actions to be undertaken

Delamination

Replace the probe lens

Faults in the cable

Replace the cable

Multiple, Large Dropouts

Replace your probe / probe parts

Damage in main cable

Needs Immediate repair 

Scanner Control Fault

Needs Immediate repair

 

 

                                                AMBER SIGNS:

 

Probe Fault Categories

Actions to be undertaken

Matching layer swollen 

Can be repaired if caught in early stage

Lens wear

  Assess the risk and monitor ; if not repair

Minor Lens Wear

Monitor the situation ; Change if more than 5% holes/cut is evident.

Minor Non-uniformity reverberation patterned image 

Monitor the situation and compare with the baseline; if not act accordingly

Individual element peripheral dropout

Monitor the situation ; if it becomes prominent, act accordingly

Damaged Strain Relief 

Repair before the cable wire gets damaged.

 

5. Repair vs Replace:

It is always essential to compare the cost of repairing your ultrasound probe against the cost of replacing the probe. You can significantly save your costs if the ultrasound transducer defects have been caught at early stages and repaired.

Minor ultrasound probe repairs tend to be less expensive compared to major probe repairs and new probe replacement. On the other hand, in few cases when ultrasound probe repairs do fall at prohibitive cost, opting for a replacement may seem the best option.

A regular Probe Management strategies has to be in place along with repair/replacement strategies for saving considerable budget.

1 comment

  • It was really a helpful manuscript for me. Thank you very much!

    Denny Junior Ziwenjere

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