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Buying a Portable Ultrasound Machine: Costs, Applications and Advice

Portable ultrasound machines offer quite a bit of versatility, especially for smaller clinics and labs. They move easily around the premises, making serving your patients simpler than having a single, stationary machine. Like other ultrasound machines, use them for diagnostics in a number of disciplines, including vascular, endocrinology, and cardiology. They also work well for monitoring fetal development and pediatric exams of an infant's head, spine, and hips.

Applications of a Portable Ultrasound Machine

Like their full-sized brethren, portable ultrasounds help diagnose myriad conditions. Physicians often rely on them to evaluate symptoms such as infection, pain, and swelling. In addition, a portable ultrasound offers a non-invasive method to examine a patient's internal organs. This includes the heart, blood vessels, and abdominal aorta.

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Physicians may diagnose issues with digestive organs, including the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. Portable ultrasound also detects issues with the reproductive organs, including the testicles, uterus, and ovaries.

In addition to diagnosis, doctors use ultrasound imagery to guide certain procedures, such as biopsies. Doppler ultrasounds help doctors evaluate a variety of issues, including cardiovascular conditions such as blood clots, narrowing vessels, and abnormal blood flow. They also use the images to view tumors and vascular malformations. These images assist doctors in deciding on the correct treatment course for a patient.

Before You Buy

Portable ultrasound machines were introduced more than 40 years ago, in 1975, as an alternative to the cumbersome bulk of traditional machines. In the intervening decades, ultrasound technology continues to advance, creating portable machines that are more efficient and streamlined than ever before. To find the right machine for your needs, keep a few things in mind.

First, consider your budget. Just like their stationary counterparts, portable ultrasound machines vary widely in price. Remember, also, that there are extra costs to consider (we detail these in the next section).

Top brands, of course, have top pricing. If you want the best brand around, consider one of the manufacturer's discounted models or even a used machine. In most cases, these machines had a lot of life left in them when one of the larger clinics or hospitals upgraded their equipment. Go online to search for quality used machines, and definitely pay attention to reviews, especially by people who actually used the machine. Their feedback is invaluable in determining the unit's quality.

Consider power. In a portable ultrasound machine, battery life is important. Make sure it comes with a good battery back-up and multiple DC ports. These ports make charging anywhere a breeze. And, though it's lighter in weight since it's portable, it should be sturdy enough to handle frequent movement.

Check the health and safety requirements, as well, to ensure your chosen machine includes certification that it meets the standards of your state. You never want to put your patients at risk.

Look also at the warranty, including what happens when the warranty expires. How about the service contract? Does it renew automatically? What sort of support does the manufacturer offer in the event of trouble? Do you have easy access to a service rep?

Finally, make sure replacement parts are both available and affordable. If your monitor goes out, for example, you need to be able to find a replacement as well as afford to do so. Other parts you need easy access to include power supplies, keyboards, casters, and panels.

Portable Ultrasound Machine Costs

As stated, these vary widely, from around $5,000 to upwards of $50,000. Even within a particular manufacturer, you find vast difference in price. GE, for example, carries portable ultrasound models starting at around $16,000. Top GE models, refurbished, are available for around $20,000 to $45,000.

You see similar variety in pricing in other top portable ultrasound brands. You can find a SonoScape for around $4,200, or spend as much as $46,000. Most manufacturers offer monthly payment plans.

The Philips Lumify is a portable ultrasound app. A subscription starts at $199 per month.

Additional costs include installation, delivery, maintenance agreements, printers, and accessories. Delivery typically costs around $300. Installation and training may be included in the price, but make sure before you buy, as you may need to hire a trainer. The cost of most maintenance agreements come to around 15 percent of the cost of your unit, annually.

Printers start at around $1,000 for a black and white and go up to about $3,000 for color or thermal printers. Your unit should come with a starter pack of accessories that includes gel, lotion, and pads. However, these supplies need regular replacement.

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