Preventive maintenance/quality assurance question. I’m curious about your opinion, since there is no exact answer: It has been stated that during a PM most manufacturers do not do qualitative testing on transducers (ie exhaustive phantom testing). Radiology departments also have requirements that suggest doing this type of testing. What’s your opinion on that? Do you believe that everyone, manufacturers and third-party organizations like yours, should be performing these tests using phantoms? Or should manufacturers provide on-board test utilities that do this? This can potentially add a lot of money to the cost of a PM.

A great deal of what constitutes a PM and how often it should be done depends on the facility you’re talking about, its policies, and what certifying agencies it is working with. Today’s deployed ultrasound technology demands quantifiable testing to determine not only the current level of a systems performance, but to also detect potential failures. At a minimum, this requires a phantom, a leakage tester, and tools. All of our engineers carry these in their service vehicles. I do agree, these tools are initially expensive but this cost is small when you consider the number of times they will be used.

All probes should be imaged on the phantom, a hard copy of the images captured, and leakage tested at every PM. At a minimum, this will assist in detecting potential lens and nose piece failures early enough to mitigate some of the repair costs. TEE probes should be tested more often for patient safety.

Regarding your question about on-board test utilities and their value, most newer ultrasound systems have on-board diagnostics and while these may provide useful additional data, the most power diagnostic tool used on an ultrasound system is the service engineer. Many of the imaging criteria we evaluate during a PM would not lend themselves well to on-board testing. As to whether manufacturers and ISOs should be doing this level of testing, service providers must perform maintenance at a level consistent with the facility’s need for compliance.

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