Buying an Ultrasound Machine: Costs, Applications, and Advice
Also called sonography, ultrasound machines do more than monitor fetal development during pregnancy. They also help diagnose a variety of medical conditions. Ultrasound technology helps detect tumors, diagnose heart conditions, and monitor internal organ health, including bladder, kidneys, and liver.
A physician may order an ultrasound examination to help evaluate symptoms that include infection, pain, and swelling. It is also a safe way to look at the heart and blood vessels, bladder, uterus, scrotum, and gallbladder. In addition, it offers a non-intrusive way to examine the brain, hips, and spine in infants.
Doctors use ultrasound during needle biopsies, to guide the procedure, and to create a more accurate picture after an abnormal mammogram. When used to diagnose heart conditions, ultrasound is commonly called an echocardiogram.
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Doppler ultrasound is used in evaluating blood clots and other blockages, tumors, and irregularities in blood flow. These images help doctors make a variety of medical recommendations, such as angioplasty.
Ultrasound Purchasing Advice
If you're purchasing a new ultrasound machine, consider the following items when making your choice.
The two main specs you're looking for are frequency and power output. Ultrasound frequency refers to how deeply the waves penetrate. Higher frequency, between 10 and 16 MHz, provides more superficial images. Lower frequencies, 1 or 2 MHz, offer deeper penetration. As for power, lower settings work better, as higher power output may cause burns.
How will you use it?
This includes both how often you plan to use it as well as the environment in which you use it. These factors dictate which product features you need. Talking to your ultrasound techs provides valuable insight in determining use and necessary features to meet patient needs.
Who is using it?
How skilled are the technicians who will use the machine? Before buying one of the more advanced models, such as a CT machine, you may need to provide additional training to ensure your techs know how to use it correctly. Ask the provider if they offer training online or offline, as well as if they provide onsite training.
Manufacturer warranties vary from company to company, so verify the warranty's duration before purchasing. Also, look at what happens after the warranty expires, such as the cost of service contracts, how long the contracts last, and whether they renew automatically. Does the manufacturer charge cancellation fees, or offer guaranteed response times? Before signing a contract, ask around. Also, don't be afraid to negotiate terms. Remember, once you sign a contract, you lose all negotiation leverage.
How does the manufacturer support its customers once they sign on the dotted line? Look at the terms and conditions of the service contract and negotiate alternatives to system updates and tech support before signing that contract. Is technical support at the end of a simple toll-free call? Can the service vendor run diagnostics and troubleshoot issues? Answer all of these questions before signing anything.
Repairs and parts
How easy is it to acquire parts and consumables? If replacement parts are too expensive, or difficult to find, the machine likely is not a good purchase. Basic parts you want to make sure are readily available include:
- Power supplies
- Keys and buttons
- Upper control panel
Average Costs of an Ultrasound Machine
Pricing for an ultrasound machine varies widely, ranging from $10,000 to $200,000 or more. Typically, new machines range from $20,000 to $75,000. These models usually work well for smaller clinics. A large hospital, however, typically spends in the $150,000 range for 4-D imagery models.
Used machines start at around $5,000 and go up to around $40,000 for the average model.
A refurbished Philips Envisor C 3D Ultrasound Machine averages around $30,000, while the GE Voluson 730 Expert 4D Ultrasound Machine averages around $50,000. A new GE Voluson E8 Expert BT06 starts at $115,000 with refurbished models selling for under $100,000.