“Cleanliness is next to keeping your ultrasound system running a long and happy life” Okay so that is not quite how the saying goes but, you get the gist. I would like to address something that is SO very important but, a lot of times, gets overlooked and that is keeping your system clean. Given the environment that we work in with all the animal hair, dander, and dirt (not to mention human hair and dander) you can only imagine what that can do to a system.
The question then becomes how do you keep your ultrasound equipment clean? First and foremost, locate the manual that came with your system and read about what it suggests as far as the particulars of housekeeping on your system. If you do not have a manual look to the internet or the manufacturer for a copy. Be aware that warranties can be null and void if procedures are not followed as stated by the manufacturer as far as what type of cleaners and materials. Not to mention that some cleaners are caustic and can ruin your equipment.
The following list is the approved cleaners for Samsung Units:
- Sani-Cloth® bleach Germicidal Disposable Wipe Sodium Hypochlorite PDI Wipe
- T.Spray II Quaternary Ammonium (N-Alkyl) Pharmaceutical Innovations, Inc. Spray
- PROTEX® ULTRA DISINFECTANT WIPES Quaternary Ammonium (N-Alkyl) Parker Laboratory Inc. Wipe
- The Clorox Company Bleach Germicidal Wipes Sodium Hypochlorite Wipe
In general the whole machine inside and out should be cleaned. This includes the monitors, transducers and their cables, as well as the filter(s). Wait…! What..? The ultrasound machine has a filter? Yes, your ultrasound machine has a filter (some units may have more than 1) that should be cleaned at least once a week. A dirty clogged filter can result in heat build up and over time can cause damage to the hard drive and CPU board. Those components can cost thousands of dollars to replace. Take a look at your system and identify where the filter is located. You are going to have to get down on the floor to find it. Not all manufacturers put them in the same place so It could be along the bottom in the front, back, or on the sides of the unit. Refer to your manufacturer on how to clean the filter on your system. For instance on the Samsung unit the filter can be removed and rinsed with water and once dried put back into place. Other systems may have a filter that cannot be washed and only vacuumed or wiped clean.
Transducers should be cleaned after each examination with a gentle soap and water or quaternary ammonium (a low-level disinfectant) sprays or wipes (see approved list for Samsung). Remember to clean the cables as well!! Gel and dirt have an amazing way of getting all over!!
How about that monitor? You know that you put your gel-laden fingers on that monitor during your scan! You are scanning and someone says “what is that?” and you inherently point to the lesion/organ on the screen. Some systems have a monitor and a touchscreen and should be cleaned as you would your personal computer. That is, no cleaners should be sprayed directly on the monitor or touch screen. There are glass/computer cleaners that are ammonia free that can be used. Spray a small amount of cleaner onto a microfiber or lint-free (like a Kim-Wipe) cloth and gently clean.
There is one other thing that can be cleaned on your system and it can seem a little bit daunting at first but, once you do it you will wonder why you thought it was so scary. That is cleaning the trackball. Dirt, hair, and gel can get under the trackball and make it stick and be sluggish. Of course, check your manual or with your friendly service engineer/sales person if you want to clean it and are unsure. On most systems the trackball sits in an assembly that kind of looks like a collar and if you turn that collar counterclockwise it will allow you to take the trackball out and clean the hair and dirt out of the recess that it sits in. Do not use any sharp implements in this area! Gently clean this area and trackball with a soft lint free cloth. Wipe the trackball and replace it into the recess with the assembly. Turn it clockwise to tighten it back down.
The inside of your system needs to be cleaned and checked out as well. This should be done once every year or two. Consult the company from whom you purchased your system from about getting this done by a service engineer. If your system is new or if you are buying a new system ask about a preventative maintenance visit during the warranty period. You may want to inquire about a preventative maintenance contract for this service post warranty as well.
There are a couple of other things that I would like to mention that will help to keep your system running smoothly and lengthen its lifespan. One of those things is the power supply. Your system should be plugged into a backup power supply (UPS). This will protect it from any power surges or “dirty power” affecting the system’s hard-drive. For those of us who live in Florida the woes of lightning strikes and electronic death is so real that it is imperative to have a backup power supply. It is recommended not to not have any other electronic devices other than the ultrasound plugged into this backup as it reduces your protection for your system. Along those lines, be aware of where the power cord is placed and keep it from being run over by the system when it gets moved around. Repeated crushing of the power can cause the outer jacket and individual wire insulation to soften allowing the twisted copper strands to flatten and eventually the insulation will split thereby creating a potential short circuit and possible fire hazard.
Lastly, let’s talk about transducer safety. Now all of you have been warned about dropping the transducer and have been frightened to the very brink of your lives about breaking it. The reason why is that damage to any and all of the parts of the transducer can contribute to the overall performance. The probe mainly consists of an acoustic lens, acoustic matching layer, piezoelectric element/crystals and backing material.
Ultrasound transducer components
The other parts of the transducer are the connectors, cable, motor control and locking system. Transducer damage can result in image quality issues. This may be due to a damaged lens, connector issues, crystal damage, or tears in the lens. A noisy image can be a result of a broken cable or connector component (pins) damage or improper placement. No image at all could be a result of probe cable – connector breakage, probe compatibility issue or software issue. Physical damage is a result of mishandling such a dropping or improper storage.
Tear in the lens
Damaged Connector Pins
On most console systems there are transducer holders for the head and some sort of hook or handle device for the cable. Make sure that the cable is placed so as not to be run over or yanked when moving the system! On portable systems loosely roll the cable as rolling up a garden hose and place on a safe surface out of the way of traffic. Keep needles and biopsy instruments away from the lens during ultrasound guided procedures!! Once a transducer is damaged and showing artifacts it will have to be replaced. As you can guess this is not a cheap component of your ultrasound system!!
Your ultrasound system is a precious commodity and let’s face it you spent a good deal of money to purchase it. The investment was well worth it of course, and keeping it clean and safe is a great way to protect that investment. Properly educate staff and users on how the machine works and how to properly clean it and keep it in good condition!
Remember to keep it clean and Practice, Practice, Practice!!!!