An ultrasound machine is an invaluable piece of diagnostic equipment that doctors rely upon to treat their patients. It’s a highly technical and sophisticated machine that requires care to work properly. Machines of all kinds will only function correctly for so long before they need some maintenance and repairs. Nothing will work perfectly forever, so know that going into it. Even the best machines on the market will benefit from regular maintenance and care. We have some tips to maintain your ultrasound machine so it will work for years to come.
READ THE USER MANUAL FOR GUIDELINES
This seems logical, right? Every machine will come with an operator/user guide, so take the time to read it. Even if you have experience operating ultrasound machines—maybe even that specific model—read it anyway. There is a wealth of information in there that will tell you how to clean, maintain, and operate the machine so it lasts a long time. Consult the user guide if there are operational issues with the machine. There are pages that tell you how to solve a problem and make small repairs. Recommended preventative maintenance lists and schedules are found in the manual.
USE THE MACHINE PROPERLY
Correct use of the machine will help keep it in good condition and avoid many problems. Untrained or improper usage can damage vital systems and reduce the machine’s efficiency. Prevent others and yourself from pounding on the keys or handling the trackball aggressively. Hitting a key too hard won’t break it the first time, but over time it will wear down and eventually break. Don’t pull on the cords and cables improperly; always grab them as close to the connection as possible. Avoid rolling over the chords and cables as this pinches and can break the wires inside.
CLEAN THE MACHINE DAILY
Ultrasound machines and their related peripherals and systems need regular cleaning for optimal performance. Parts of the ultrasound, such as the CPU, are made of electromechanical parts, and that means two things. They are adversely affected by dust and they attract dust—big time. Be sure to wipe the machine down for dust at the end of each shift.
It doesn’t take long for dust to accumulate and make its way into the vital components of the machine and cause problems, potentially including fire. The peripheral devices such as the transducer probe and patient physiology cables need wiping down daily, too. The transducers usually have a recommended cleaning and/or disinfecting procedure and special products suggested by the manufacturer. Because they come in contact with patients, it is very important they are cleaned thoroughly and daily.
GIVE THE TRANSDUCER EXTRA ATTENTION
As mentioned above, the transducer comes into contact with patients, so it is very important to keep it clean and maintained. The transducer is what the technician rubs on the patient or inserts into the patient’s orifice, so the image is made, and without it there will be no ultrasound image to look at. Begin by inspecting the pins on the probe connector. Bent pins can damage the probe connector board on the system, which then may damage another probe when it is plugged into that board. This can have a cascade effect throughout a department as damaged probes are moved around, and damaged connector boards continue to bend pins on other probes. Then, check the cable connection to make sure there are no frayed ends or exposed wires. The chance of electrocution is small, but don’t take any chances.
DISINFECTION IS VERY IMPORTANT
The world that an ultrasound machine inhabits can be a messy one filled with bodily fluids. Emergency rooms, clinics, and hospitals are places with a high likelihood that there will be body fluids contacted, splashed or spilled about. If the machine is contaminated with such fluids, disinfecting it immediately is vital. If any part of the machine comes into contact with any fluids, wipe it down immediately with only OEM-approved cleaners. This is especially important for the user interface systems and monitoring. Those are areas that the technician will touch daily, to eliminate any chance of contracting an infectious disease and follow all procedures related to cleaning biological spills. After wiping the machine down, spray a cloth with the disinfectant and wipe every surface down completely. For larger spills, it may be necessary to contact your service provider and have them take apart the machine and clean it inside and out.
CLEAN THE AIR FILTERS REGULARLY
Keep the system cool and prevent it from overheating. It comes with a fan and vents, and those vents need protection from dust with air filters. That same dust we mentioned before will get inside the CPU and cause damage if the filters are left unchecked. Check and clean the air filters weekly, or as required by the manufacturer. If they are full of dust, they have done their job but aren’t able to do it any longer. Make sure the machine is switched off before pulling any of the filters. If it’s dirty, cleaning it with a vacuum cleaner or soap and water will usually do the trick. Refer to the user manual for the recommended way to clean them. It’s always a good idea to keep a backup filter on hand so you can let the dirty one dry out fully if you clean it with water.
TAKE PRECAUTIONS DURING TRANSPORT
When moving the machine, take precautions. They are designed to be mobile, but they can still fall over and damage the components. When moving it, scan the path ahead for anything that can get caught under the wheels, causing it to tip. Walk at a steady pace and don’t let the ultrasound machine vibrate or shake. Overly bumpy floors or paths will jar the electronics within or make the transducer fall to the floor, damaging it. Be sure to hold the electrical cord securely in transport to assure it is not accidentally pinched or damaged.