What Are The Different Types of Ultrasound Machines and Their Uses and Applications?

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Ultrasound machines have benefited in recent years from the advances in medical technology. There are now dozens of different types of ultrasound machines on the market, each offering a variety of services and features. 

Such a vast choice can be challenging, but if you’re looking to purchase an ultrasound machine, understanding the various options should make the decision an easier one. 

What Are The 4 Main Types of Ultrasound Machines?

What Are The 4 Main Types of Ultrasound Machines?

There are four different types of ultrasound machines available. Which one you choose depends on the type of tests you’re going to be performing, what you’re investigating, and the type of equipment available.  

2D Ultrasound Machines

These are the most common and they produce two-dimensional images that are cross sections of the tissue being scanned. 

Benefits

  • Real-time, live views
  • Radiation-free process using high frequency sound waves
  • Can be performed at any point during pregnancy

Common uses

  • Diagnostic ultrasound
  • Obstetric 
  • Assist anesthesiologists in various procedures
  • Cardiology
  • Vascular 

3D Ultrasound Machines

3D ultrasound machines scan tissue cross sections from a variety of angles. The data is then reconstructed to produce a three-dimensional image. 

Benefits

  • Faster examinations and lower patient waiting times
  • Better quality images

Common uses

  • Obstetrics
  • Gynecology
  • Fetal ultrasound cardiac
  • Internal medicine
  • Ophthalmology
  • Musculoskeletal 

4D Ultrasound Machines

The fourth dimension, time. that these machines take advantage of means they are able to create the most realistic representations possible. 

Benefits

  • Produces realistic images that can be very rewarding for expectant parents
  • Able to reveal abnormalities not detected with 2D ultrasound
  • Images appear to be moving
  • Images are in color and of the highest quality

Common uses

  • Obstetrics
  • Breast
  • Gynecology
  • Internal medicine
  • Urology
  • Musculoskeletal 

Doppler Ultrasound Machines

Doppler Ultrasound Machines

Doppler ultrasound machines are used for taking blood flow measurements and evaluating pressure within blood vessels. Traditional 2D and 3D machines are not suitable for this kind of examination. 

High-frequency sound waves bounce off the blood cells as they move and the machine records changes in the frequency of the sound waves. This is then converted into a visual representation of the blood vessels. The speed the blood is flowing and in what direction can be seen from examining the images.

Benefits

  • Can detect conditions that are blocking blood flow or restricting it
  • Simple procedure
  • No known risks

Common Uses

  • Diagnosing cardiovascular diseases
  • Detecting blood clots, blocked and bulging arteries
  • Monitoring heart rate and blood flow

Color Doppler Ultrasound

A computer is used to change sound waves into different colors that show the speed and direction of blood flow in real time.   

Power Doppler Ultrasound

This is a newer type of color Doppler ultrasound that provides a more detailed image of blood flow. However, it cannot show the direction of blood flow. 

Spectral Doppler Ultrasound

This is a machine that shows blood flow measurements in the form of a graph, rather than color pictures. It can show whether a blood vessel is blocked and how serious the blockage is. 

What are the Uses and Applications of Different Ultrasound Machines?

What are the Uses and Applications of Different Ultrasound Machines?

The wide range of ultrasound machines available means that they can meet the differing needs of clinics, hospitals, and medical professionals. Below you’ll find the most common ultrasound machines available and what they can be used for. 

Basic Ultrasound Machine

This is the most common type that typically produces two-dimensional images. The images are made using high-frequency sound waves that bounce off the internal structures of the body. The sound waves are received by a transducer which then creates the image. 

Applications

  • Listening to babies’ heartbeat during a sonogram

Pelvic Ultrasound Imaging

Pelvic ultrasound imaging is most commonly used for monitoring the health of a fetus or embryo during pregnancy. However, there are a number of other uses. 

Applications

  • Examining the uterus, bladder, ovaries, and prostate gland
  • Diagnosing conditions such as abnormal bleeding, menstrual problems, pelvic pain, uterine fibroids, uterine and ovarian cancers

Transvaginal Ultrasound

Transvaginal Ultrasound

A transvaginal ultrasound scanner is used to see what’s going on inside a woman’s vagina. The examination takes place with the patient lying on their back with their feet in stirrups. A transducer is inserted into the bagina and moved around to capture images from different angles.  

Applications

  • Detecting abnormalities 

Transrectal Ultrasound

A transrectal imaging scanner is used to check what’s going on inside the patient’s rectum. A transducer is inserted so that sound waves can travel to the prostate. The patient lies down for the examination on their left side.  

Applications

  • Detecting abnormalities

Obstetric Imaging

Obstetric imaging machines use sound waves to determine the condition of a pregnant woman and her fetus or embryo. The patient lies on their back or side and they have to expose their lower abdominal area. The sonographer guides a transducer over the area, but there is minimal discomfort.  

Applications

  • Establishing the presence of a living fetus or embryo
  • Estimating the pregnancy age
  • Diagnosing congenital abnormalities
  • Evaluating the fetus’s position
  • Evaluating the placenta’s position
  • Determining whether there is more than one pregnancy

Breast Ultrasound Imaging

This type of ultrasound machine is specifically for scanning breast tissue. There is no radiation so this is a preferred method for detecting breast cancer. The machine can detect the smallest abnormality and often, Doppler signals are used as well to monitor blood flow. 

Applications

  • Detecting early signs of breast cancer
  • Monitoring blood flow

Abdominal Ultrasound Imaging

Abdominal ultrasound imaging machines are used to examine internal organs and to help diagnose a range of conditions or assess damage caused by illness. It provides real-time ultrasound images of the liver, spleen, pancreas, bladder, gallbladder, and kidneys. 

Applications

  • Guiding procedures such as needle biopsies
  • Determining the source of abdominal pain
  • Identifying the cause of an enlarged abdominal organ
  • Dobbler ultrasound models can evaluate blood flow, build-up of plaque, or congenital malformation

Kidneys Imaging

A kidney or renal ultrasound machine uses sound waves to make images of the kidneys, bladder, and ureters. 

Applications

  • Assessing the location, shape, and size of the kidneys and any related structures, such as the bladder and ureters
  • Detecting tumors, cysts, obstructions, abscesses, infection, and fluid collection around and within the kidneys
  • Detecting calculi (stones) of the kidneys and ureters
  • To assist in the placement of needles used in a biopsy of the kidneys or to drain fluid from an abscess or cyst
  • Determining blood flow to the kidneys
  • To evaluate a transplanted kidney

Uterus Imaging

This type of ultrasound machine looks at a woman’s uterus, tubes, ovaries, pelvic area, and cervix. The ultrasound probe is placed inside the vagina during the test. 

Applications

  • Checking the shape, size, and position of the uterus and ovaries
  • Checking the length and thickness of the cervix
  • Checking the blood flow through the various pelvic organs
  • Checking whether there are any changes to the shape of the bladder
  • Diagnosing benign growths
  • Endometriosis diagnosis
  • Checking the heartbeat of a fetus

Musculoskeletal (MSK) Pain Management

MSK pain management ultrasound machine creates an image of various body parts using high-frequency sound waves. They can be used in the assessment and diagnosis of various musculoskeletal and cardiac issues. 

Applications

  • Checking the thickness and quality of cartilage
  • Poor joint function
  • Abnormalities in bone marrow
  • Ligament and tendon tears
  • Assessing structural injuries
  • Monitoring abdominal and other MSK-pain-management programs
  • Helping guide biopsies, joint and soft tissue injections
  • Provision of vascular access

Carotid & Abdominal Aorta Imaging

This type of ultrasound machine provides a noninvasive and fast way of identifying blockages in neck arteries leading to the brain. Primarily, it is used for evaluating an aneurysm. This is an enlargement of the aorta, generally because of atherosclerotic disease.  

Liver

This type of examination can determine the shape, size, and function of this organ. It can also detect tumors. 

Vascular/Thyroid Ultrasound

Vascular/Thyroid Ultrasound

Vascular ultrasound machines can be used for the analysis of blood flow through a patient’s veins and arteries. 

Thyroid

If a doctor suspects the thyroid glands and overactive or underactive, a thyroid ultrasound examination can be used to check. Also it checks for cysts and nodules. 

Renal

This type of examination can determine the shape, size, and function of this organ. It’s also possible to use it to detect tumors, cysts, and kidney stones. 

Shared Service Ultrasound

These are ultrasound machines that have been upgraded and can perform cardiology examinations in addition to general ultrasound examinations.

Applications 

  • Obstetrics
  • Gynecology
  • Vascular
  • Urological
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Abdominal
  • Small parts

Console Ultrasound Imaging

This is a transportable ultrasound machine on wheels. Generally, they measure no more than two feet by two feet. 

Applications

  • Obstetrics
  • Gynecology

Portable Ultrasound

Portable Ultrasound

As the name implies, this is a portable ultrasound machine. It might consist of a transducer, a probe, and a digital device that might be a smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

Applications

  • Small clinics where space is a premium
  • High numbers of patients

Veterinary

Veterinary

Veterinary ultrasound machines are for use on animals. The examination needs to be more accurate because animals and their internal organs tend to be smaller than humans. 

Applications

  • Visualizing internal organs and tissues of animals
  • Examining lungs, heart, abdomen, and reproductive organs
  • Detecting and treating animal pregnancies
  • Diagnosing internal conditions or injuries
  • Performing sonograms
  • Diagnosing tumors and cancer
  • Helping guide medical procedures and biopsies

What are the Main Ultrasound Machine Brands?

What are the Main Ultrasound Machine Brands?

For each brand include a really short overview with the main types of machines they produce.

Alpinion

Alpinion Ultrasound Systems is a company that focuses on front-end ultrasound technology and acoustic engineering to deliver ultrasound machines of the highest quality. Popular models from this brand include X-Cube, E-Cube, and Alpinion Minisono.  

Philips

Philips is a well-known manufacturer of machines that can be used for a variety of applications including vascular, cardiology, GYN/OB, and general imaging. There are also machines that can perform several applications such as the portable CX50, the Affiniti 70, and the Epiq 5. 

Siemens

Siemens has a great reputation for producing many popular ultrasound machines including its most well-known S-series that includes the S1000, S2000, and S3000. HELX Touch versions of these models are also now available.  

Canon

Formally known as Toshiba, this brand provides machines with excellent image quality and a range of technologies. The most popular series include Xario, Viamo, and Aplio. The Viamo series are portable machines, while the others are more standard. 

Mindray

Mindray Zonare is a brand that offers a wide range of systems for a range of specialties including general imaging, veterinary, cardio-vascular, and GYN/OB.

Some of the latest models include the Mindray MX7, the Mindray Z60, and the Mindray DC70 X-Insight. 

Samsung

The features that make Samsung ultrasound machines stand out include their ergonomic and intuitive design, reliability, ease of use, optimized workflows, and time-saving. Popular models include the RS80a, HS70A, HS50, and HS60. 

Sonosite

Sonosite is an industry-innovator and the leaser in portable and handheld imaging machine design. It is proud to let potential customers know that it has sold more that 40,000 systems in the last couple of decades. Some of the more popular models include the exclusive Extreme Definition Imaging (XDI), the X-Porte, the MicroMaxx, and the Sonosite iVIZ. 

GE

GE has been an excellent provider of ultrasound machines for many years. They offer a range of popular machines including Logiq, Vivid, and Voluson. The Voluson series of machines focus on women’s health, while the Logiq series is more of a selection of general imaging ultrasound machines. For cardiovascular imaging, the Vivid line comes out on top. 

How Much Do Different Types of Ultrasound Machines Cost?

The actual cost of an ultrasound machine can vary considerably depending on several factors such as the model, condition, and age.

Prices can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. 

Check our guide for more information on how much ultrasound machines cost.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Ultrasound Machine

Ultrasound machines gave a range of different functions, many of which might not be required for your particular application. Knowing what to look for when buying an ultrasound machine is very important and it means you can stick to a budget, cut-out the frills, and only pay for what is absolutely necessary. 

The following are things to consider when buying an ultrasound machine. 

Image Quality

If you’re looking for a new or used ultrasound machine, the image-quality along with image-enhancing features should be at the top of the list. At the end of the day, if the quality of the images isn’t clear enough, you’re not going to be able to provide a good level of patient care.  

Workflow

Exam automation is a feature worth considering because it offers a level of standardization regardless of who’s performing the exam. It can also help to reduce the number of repeat exams and unnecessary ultrasound testing. 

Ease of Use

Being able to use the machine easily is particularly important in the Point-of-Care environments such as Critical Care, Urgent Care, and Emergency Departments. When users can rapidly triage, diagnose, and then treat efficiently is critical. 

When the ultrasound machine is easy to use it also means that images can be captured quickly and more patients can be helped.  

Ergonomics

When a machine is being used all day long it has to be ergonomic for those using them. A high percentage of sonographers experience pain related to work. 

When looking for an ergonomic ultrasound machine, consider how easy it is to move around, whether the monitor is articulated so it can be adjusted. Is the ultrasound system for standing or seated use? How many transducer ports are there? Are there any features to prevent dragging, tripping hazards, or cable fatigue.  

Ownership Costs

Health organizations are under increased pressure to provide care at the lowest possible cost. When checking the price of an ultrasound machine, it’s important that you look at the total cost of the system over its lifespan. Key costs might include service, technology upgrades, training, and system warranty. 

Portability

With regards to portability, it really depends on how you plan to use the system. A portable ultrasound machine can be effortlessly moved around and has a smaller footprint. You’ll also need to consider how long a system is able to run on battery power and the time it takes for booting up the system. 

Warranty

Always check the warranty coverage, how easy parts can be obtained, and what the servicing requirements of a machine are. 

Advanced Capabilities

Look for the tools and features you’re going to use the most. It may be beneficial to look for a system that can have technologies or features added at a later date, as your ultrasound exam types and needs change. 

Technology Updates

As we all know, technology is constantly changing so you want to make sure your ultrasound machine isn’t going to be technologically obsolete in just a few years. Software fixes, ultrasound updates, and various enhancements will cost extra, but could be worth the investment in the long run. 

Trusted Partner

Having a partner that is there when you need them is priceless. When you’re buying an ultrasound machine, look for a vendor that offers support and servicing. 

USC Ultrasound, for example, offers a wide selection of new and used ultrasound machines. In addition, there is tech support, OEM services, repair and diagnostic services, and a USC and Me app. 

Conclusion

One of the most widely used imaging equipment in medicine is the ultrasound machine. Because they use sound waves rather than X-radiation, they are considered much safer than any other diagnostic radiology machines. As well as being used as a diagnostic tool, different types of ultrasound can also be used as a therapeutic tool.

In recent decades, there have been many technological advancements that have led to improvements in their performance and results. Now you know more about the vast range of options and the different types of ultrasound, you’re better informed and can make the best decision.