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It isn’t surprising that the use of ultrasound machines is widespread in medicine, including almost all specialties and nearly every type of medical facility, given their broad range of applications and crucial benefits offered over other medical imaging modalities. Besides, given the technological edge that today’s ultrasound machines have – compactness, exceptional image quality, versatility, and portability – their benefits have multiplied.
Read on to know why equipping your private practice with an ultrasound machine is beneficial, its benefits, range of applications, and limitations.
Benefits of Ultrasound Machines in Private Practice
Contrary to popular perception, ultrasound use is not limited to obstetrics for examination of the fetus during pregnancies. In fact, with an extensive range of applications, the ultrasound tool has established a strong foothold in other branches of medicine too. This is because the technology provides imaging capabilities that are not only exceptional but also provide a very high detail, enabling practitioners to look at the tiniest body parts.
Being safe, non-invasive, and comparatively cost-efficient, ultrasound offers enormous advantages over other technologies, making it the preferred diagnostic technology in all healthcare facilities including primary care, community settings, and private and public clinics and institutes.
Having an ultrasound machine can boost your practice’s operational efficiencies with quick, real-time, and accurate diagnosis provided immediately, when required. Not having to wait for the diagnostic report can not only save time but also streamline your clinical operations and increase patient throughput rate. Furthermore, it will be convenient for patients too by preempting the need for a separate visit to an ultrasound clinic. Moreover, it can foster one-on-one patient connections and increase patient satisfaction by providing diagnostic and consulting services in a single visit.
Muscle, Soft Tissue, and Other Organ and Body Parts Imaging
Ultrasound enables examination of soft tissues that are not easily visible in other imaging techniques such as X-rays. It clearly shows the structure of organs and that of soft tissues like the pancreas, liver, kidneys, gallbladder, and bladder, among others. It is especially effective in delineating interfaces between solid and fluid-filled spaces and imaging local variations in the mechanical properties of soft tissues. Its other applications include imaging muscle and bone surfaces. Furthermore, since ultrasound imaging is possible even during movement, its use in imaging fetuses, babies, and children, is indispensable.
Safety and Non-Invasiveness
The most distinctive edge that ultrasound offers over other imaging modalities like X–rays and CT scans is that being non-ionizing, it is safe and doesn’t expose patients to harmful radiation. Hence, it is also suitable for multiple screenings of patients who need frequent check-ups during a phase of prolonged treatment.
Being non-invasive, most ultrasound screenings do not require making incisions or cuts on the body. Therefore, they are typically painless and cause zero to minimal discomfort. Moreover, even the relatively small number of ultrasound procedures that are invasive are mostly painless, causing at most a slight discomfort. In addition, ultrasound has no known side effects.
Ease of Operations and Minimum Recovery Time
Ultrasound typically requires no prior preparation and is extremely easy to conduct. There are a few exceptions like sonography which requires a 12-hour fast and sufficient water consumption before the test. Moreover, being non-invasive, it doesn’t require any recovery time, allowing patients to resume regular activities following the test. It’s also relatively quick – 30 minutes to one hour – compared to other modalities.
Real-time, Accurate Diagnosis
Advances in the science of ultrasound technology have led to ultrasound machines having superior imaging capabilities with enhanced resolution and accuracy. In fact, ultrasound offers a much better spatial resolution than most other imaging techniques.
Additionally, since ultrasound provides ‘live’ images, it’s a boon for practitioners in clinical situations that demand rapid, real-time diagnoses. One such example is obstetrics, where it has made a significant difference to the quality of healthcare delivery in perinatal units. Another example is ultrasound-guided biopsies or injections, which are easy to perform, unlike other imaging techniques.
Technological innovations have contributed to ultrasound machines becoming more compact, less expensive, and more mobile, even as their imaging capabilities have improved. In fact, portable, hand-held ultrasound machines provide the same high–quality imaging that was earlier typically expected of bulky equipment. Consequently, accurate and rapid diagnosis is now a possibility in every clinic or practice, regardless of the size and scale of operations. Ultrasound has even reached patients’ bedsides or homes, in case of home healthcare and telemedicine. It has also positively impacted the quality and timeliness of healthcare delivery.
Versatility –Widely Available and Flexible Equipment
Ultrasound equipment is widely available and increasingly flexible, allowing a wide range of examinations. Many ultrasound machines come with different transducer probes that broaden their applications considerably.
The variety of ultrasound uses continues to expand, ranging from basic venous collapsibility and global cardiac assessment to more complex tasks such as the assessment of cardiac flow and tissue Doppler signals.
Earlier, practitioners cited equipment cost as one of the major barriers to purchasing ultrasound machines. However, cheap and portable machines have made it possible to equip private clinics with ultrasound. Besides, ultrasound is essentially inexpensive in comparison with other imaging techniques such as DEXA, computed X-ray tomography, or magnetic resonance imaging, among others.
Applications of Ultrasound
Ultrasound technology, which is an imaging technique using high-frequency sound waves to view internal body structures or organs, is used to diagnose and treat a variety of diseases and conditions. For instance, it is used in biopsy procedures to view live images with precision and in pregnancies to monitor fetus growth and other parameters and detect defects and potential issues. Ultrasound machines can also diagnose diseases of the liver, kidneys, thyroid, spleen, ovaries, bladder, uterus, testicles, blood vessels, pancreas, and eyes.
Ultrasound machines can play a significant role in private practice too by helping physicians examine symptoms like pain, swelling, and infection. High-resolution ultrasound is particularly useful in examining the musculoskeletal system, that is, muscle, bone, and joint–related parts. In addition, it can help assess organ damage after an illness or cancer.
Furthermore, as point-of-care ultrasound is integrated into clinical practice, its applications continue to expand, ranging from diagnosing musculoskeletal injuries and guiding injections to screening for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)1.
Here are a few other situations in which an ultrasound is recommended:
- To examine the thyroid and parathyroid glands
- To assess joint inflammation
- To identify genital and prostate conditions
- To examine breast lumps and guide breast cancer biopsies
- To diagnose metabolic bone disease
- To inspect the uterus and ovaries
- To monitor the fetus during pregnancy to check its growth, sex of the baby, weight, defects, or abnormalities
- To guide needle biopsy procedures for sampling cells from a given area
- To evaluate abdominal pain
- To examine infants’ brain, hips, and spine
- To examine congenital vascular malformations
Doppler color ultrasound imaging is especially useful in examining blood flow and vessels to detect abnormalities such as the following:
- To examine blockages to blood flow such as clots
- To measure blood flow in arteries to detect blockages
- To inspect reduced or higher blood flow to different organs
- To inspect narrowing of vessels
- To inspect blood vessels like the abdominal aorta and others
- To diagnose various heart conditions such as, heart attack, valve, and congestive heart problems
- To evaluate the damage after a heart attack
- By inspecting the blood flow, its speed, and volume, Doppler ultrasound imaging helps the physician in assessing patient suitability for an angioplasty or other procedures
- To detect abnormal masses like tumor
- To detect changes in size, appearance, or contour of organs, tissues, and vessels
- To check for abnormal growths in pancreas, liver, or spleen
- To diagnose gallbladder disease, gallstones or sludge in the gallbladder
- To check for abnormal enlargement of the spleen
- To check for fatty liver or liver cancer
Advances in ultrasound technology now allow 3D imaging for three-dimensional views, as opposed to the two-dimensional views offered by traditional ultrasound machines. Even 4D imaging that shows images in motion is now a reality. Additionally, Doppler ultrasound imaging provides views of blood flow through vessels. The other advanced ultrasounds are echocardiograms to assess heart health and bone sonography.
Ultrasound & Mammography – Higher Breast Cancer Detection
Ultrasound machines can detect breast tumors that even a mammography, which is the primary breast cancer test, can miss. Moreover, a mammography has an 84% overall sensitivity, making it likely to miss approximately 16% breast cancers. Furthermore, a mammography is inefficient in detecting cancers in dense breast tissue, which ironically is more susceptible to breast cancer. A study of more than 70,000 women showed that ultrasound combined with mammography correctly detected 91% of the breast cancers, as opposed to a mammography alone, which detected only 77% of them.
Since ultrasound technology uses low-power sound waves with non-ionizing radiation, it is relatively safe and has no known risks. However, it has a few limitations. The inability of sound waves to penetrate air or bone makes ultrasound machines incapable of imaging the insides of bone structures and body parts hidden by bone or that have gas. For instance, for imaging the head or lungs (in some cases), a CT, MRI scan, or X-ray would be more suitable. Similar is the case with extremely overweight patients in whom ultrasound imaging may be unclear.
Portable Ultrasound Machines – New Era of Diagnosis
Ultrasound machine trends have led to the advent of cheap, portable, hand-carried devices with superior imaging capabilities, which have enabled practitioners to equip their clinics with ultrasound for quick diagnoses when the need arises. These machines have heralded an era of immediate diagnosis anytime and anywhere, extending their reach, even in point-of-care and emergency settings. Additionally, they have significantly impacted the timeliness and quality of overall healthcare. Telemedicine and global healthcare are other promising applications of portable ultrasounds.
To help you with your ultrasound needs, we carry a full range of cutting-edge wheeled and portable ultrasound machines from major manufacturers at a reasonable cost. Furthermore, we also offer an extensive selection of used portable ultrasound machines at lower prices. Contact a National Ultrasound professional today for a customized quote on any of our ultrasound machines.