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Buying a Cardiac Ultrasound Machine: Prices, Features, and Advice

Using the same technology ultrasound has used since its introduction in 1975, cardiac ultrasound produces live pictures of the patient's heart and valves, allowing the physician to examine the inside of the body without making a single incision or subjecting the patient to contrast dyes or radiation.

Cardiac Ultrasound Machine Applications

Also called an echocardiogram, a heart ultrasound examines the organ's motion, shape, and size. It reveals the four main components of the heart: the pericardium (the heart's surrounding sac), the four chambers, the valves and walls, and the blood vessels.

Additional tests assess blood flow, such as with a Doppler ultrasound. A transesophageal echocardiogram is a bit different. In this ultrasound, the ultrasound wand travels down the patient's throat to provide clear images of the heart.

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Doctors use cardiac ultrasound for a wide variety of reasons, such as testing blood flow, looking for irregularities that may indicate disease or disorder. It also helps evaluate conditions such as heart murmurs, identify unusual growths, test functionality, and monitor and assess damage after a heart attack.

Echocardiogram is frequently ordered after certain procedures, or when patients complain of symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pains.

Things to Consider

Major purchases like a vascular ultrasound machine require careful thought, planning, and research. Considerations include your budget, input from your techs on the machine's use and features, and support offered after completing the purchase.

Your budget

Consider the complete cost of your ultrasound machine when figuring your budget. This means the cost of the machine, the service contract, plus accessories and replacement parts. Don't forget training, too. Ask what type of training is included with your purchase, and then determine whether your sonographers will need more in-depth training. If you're upgrading your equipment or buying a more technologically advanced unit, this may be required.

If your budget forbids one of the top models, consider a refurbished one. They cost significantly less and have been completely revamped by the manufacturer. Another option is one of the discounted models by the same manufacturer. Look for reviews from verified purchasers, since these are far more reliable. If buying used from a hospital or clinic, talk to one of the facility's ultrasound techs to learn how the machine truly worked.

Does it have the features your team needs?

You should have a great resource to answer this question on-site already: your ultrasound techs. These are the best people to tell you which features are must-haves for the efficient performance of their jobs, which ones they'd like to have but aren't necessarily vital, and which features they never use.

Test the unit first

Your sonographers help here, as well. Choose your tech with the most experience to accompany you on a test drive of your chosen model and listen to his or her feedback on the unit's handling and performance. The goal is a unit with intuitive features and controls.

How easy is it to find replacement parts?

When it's time to replace parts, you want to make sure that the parts are easy to find and priced within your budget. Check pricing and availability of the casters, keyboards, keys and buttons, monitor, power supplies, and upper control panel of your chosen unit; these are your most-often replaced parts.

What kind of support does the vendor offer?

Your focus here is the warranty and service contract. How long is the warranty and what does it cover? What about the maintenance agreement, does it cover parts and repairs? Some service contracts automatically renew. Is that something you want? Are there fees for cancelling your contract early? How does support work? You want simple, easy access to technical support if you experience any problems with the machine.

Ask lots of questions and do not be afraid to negotiate the terms of your maintenance contract. Once you sign, you negotiation ends and you're locked in.

Average Costs of a Cardiac Ultrasound Machine

Though the pricing on cardiac ultrasound machines vary widely, the average cost ranges between $20,000 and $40,000, depending on features and brand. However, pricing varies widely on either side of that range, as well.

A new, portable Mindray comes in at around $21,000. SonoScape has a 3D model retailing for under $18,000. Brands like GE and Philips come in quite a bit higher. If you want a GE model for $20,000, look for a refurbished unit.

Additional Costs

After paying for the unit itself, you have a few more costs to consider. Delivery averages around $300. The maintenance contract typically costs you about 15 percent of the purchase price. If you also buy a printer, prices range between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on whether you choose a black and white printer or a color or thermal model.

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