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

A Doppler ultrasound machine uses sound waves to measure blood flow. The waves bounce off of the patient's red blood cells and the Doppler technology measures the frequency of this flow. Standard ultrasound transducers do not have the capability to produce this type of imagery.

As in other ultrasounds, the technician, called a sonographer, applies a thin layer of gel, which serves as a conduit for the transducer to glide across the patient's skin and helps read the sound waves to produce the images.

Doppler Ultrasound Machine Applications

Physicians use Doppler ultrasound to help determine a patient's eligibility for procedures like angioplasty. Doppler imagery demonstrates whether the patient's blood vessels are narrowing, or whether there are blockages that may indicate blood clots. It may also reveal tumors or abnormal blood flow to organs, which may point to disease or disorder of the organ.

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What to Know before You Buy

Just like any other major purchase, perform your due diligence before buying a Doppler ultrasound machine, considering a variety of factors and performing extensive research of your chosen model. Items for consideration include your budget, how you plan to use the machine, and what kind of support you receive after completing your purchase.

Know your budget

Your budget must include more than the ticket price of the unit you buy. We look at additional costs in detail in the next section, but a quick list of considerations includes the service contract and replacement parts. Also remember that your team may require more training than what's included with the purchase. This is especially true if the machine you choose is a technological upgrade to your current equipment.

You may be able to extend your budget by purchasing a refurbished or used model, especially if you're set on one of the top manufacturers. When buying a refurbished or used item, find the most recent model you can afford, which increases the likelihood of easily obtaining replacement parts.

What features do you need?

Talk to your ultrasound techs to answer this question and discover which features they feel are vital to the efficient, proper performance of their job. They likely also have a wish list of the features they'd like on a machine, but which aren't truly necessary. Finally, they know which features they rarely or never use.

Can you try before you buy?

It should go without saying, but just in case: do not buy a Doppler ultrasound machine without first performing a test drive. Employ your most experienced ultrasound tech to complete this task, as he or she has the background to assess how intuitive its controls are and how well it performs.

What does support look like?

Look closely at the warranty and the service contract. Even if you buy a refurbished unit, it should include both. Manufacturers don't necessarily offer the same warranties, so don't assume the warranty remains the same between each model. Look also at what the service agreement includes, as well as whether it renews automatically. Another item: does the vendor charge a fee for early cancellation? Before signing is the time to ask all of your questions and negotiate terms. Once you sign, you are locked into the terms.

Are replacement parts easy to find?

Even if you purchase a new unit, replacement parts are a given. Make your life easier by ensuring, before buying a new ultrasound machine, that the most commonly replaced parts are easily available and reasonably priced. The most common replacement parts include the casters, keyboards, keys and buttons, monitor, power supplies, and upper control panel.

Doppler Ultrasound Average Costs

Pricing on Doppler ultrasound machines vary widely. For Doppler technology, you have to buy the right kind of probe, and this is where a good chunk of the price lies. For example, a Philips Doppler transducer starts at around $4,500 and goes up to $17,000 and more.

An entire SonoScape system starts at around $9,000. GE models range from around $20,000 to $40,000 for a refurbished model, with top new models starting at the $45,000 range and going up to over $100,000.

A fetal Doppler unit is typically much smaller, so costs much less. In general, you're looking at hundreds, up to maybe $4,000, for one of these.

Additional Costs

After paying for the unit itself, you have a few other costs. Expect to pay around $300 for delivery of an ultrasound machine. Your maintenance contract likely costs about 15 percent of the purchase price of the unit. A printer ranges between $1,000 and $3,000. You'll also need to figure in the cost of replacing accessories, which includes gel, lotion, and pads.

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