Diagnostic ultrasound machines come in many forms.
This guide is meant to offer an extensive overview of the many to consider when you are looking to buy an ultrasound.
It is a popular imaging method partly due to the fact that they utilize high-frequency sound waves to generate live images. Hereby, ultrasound is harmless, non-ionizing radiation, in contrast to X-rays used in other types of medical imaging equipment.
They are used for many different applications and have developed to be highly specialised.
So, how do you pick the right one?
This guide will walk you through the main points of that decision.
If you prefer, you can sign up for our e-mail course, it will walk you through the main points of this article.
That will also give access to this article as an e-book you can download.
Get the Ultrasound mail course
Ultrasound systems can be dedicated to certain types of examinations. However, an advanced cardiac system, is not optimal for OB/GYN.
So, consider what examinations the system will be used for and let that guide your decision when you are looking at ultrasound machines for sale.
You can see the most common applications below by opening the bar.
Cardiac and cardiovascular ultrasounds are specialised for examinations of the heart, and heart and vessels respectively.
A cardiac ultrasound examination, also called echocardiogram, examines size, shape, and motion of the heart.
Dedicated cardiac ultrasounds comes with options that eases examinations and allow for better imaging and analysis of data. The more advanced the system the more advanced software.
Ultrasounds require probes, and for cardiac you have a couple to choose from.
You typically need a phased array probe. Furthermore, in some cases a TEE probe is required. A TEE probe is a type of specialised cardiac probe for insertion in the oesophagus. And pencil probes are good for examining blood movement.
OB/GYN is short for obstetrics and gynaecology.
Within obstetrics ultrasounds confirm pregnancy, determine gestational age, locate the placenta, and diagnose foetal malformations.
In gynaecology, it performs imaging of the female reproductive organs. To assess their size, and position, the thickness of the tissues, and to look for masses and other abnormalities.
Generally, you need a convex and an endocavity probe for OB/GYN.
General imaging is a term for ultrasounds that has a wider range of applications.
Therefore, they cover: Abdominal, musculoskeletal, small parts, urological, and vascular. But also OB/GYN as described above.
Many general imaging systems can be upgraded to shared service. Which bascially means that it now has options for cardiology examinations on top.
Hereby, the probes that you should purchase with your general imaging ultrasound, depends on the examinations you do.
Main Ultrasound Brands and Series
The four main brands are Siemens, GE, Philips, and Canon (former Toshiba).
And there are that are popular, such as Samsung, Esaote, Sonosite and more.
These all offer high quality equipment that has great value, even as used ultrasound systems.
This section will give an overview of the main series within each of the four main brands. We will focus mostly on those popular on the used market.
Siemens Ultrasound Series
Siemens ultrasound machines are generally versatile. Their series are not split per application and we have therefore split them per performance.
The Acuson X-series
This ultrasound series covers the entry and mid-range segment and includes models such as X300, X700 and more.
All systems are for general imaging and can perform a range of examinations.
Furthermore, all of them can be upgraded to shared service.
GE Ultrasound Series
GE is a popular manufacturer and they have been strong in the ultrasound market for years.
Their series are divided by applications, and the main ones are Voluson, Vivid, and Logiq.
Each of these series are further divided into sub series.
For the Voluson and Logiq the sub series are E, which is their high-end models, S that is mid-range, and P, their entry level models. For the Vivids it is E, S, and T, where T is their entry level.
The Voluson Series
This series of ultrasound machines is dedicated to OB/GYN and women’s health.
Models in this series include the Voluson S6, E8 and E10, and the portable ultrasounds Voluson I and Voluson E.
The Logiq Series
This is GE’s ultrasounds series for general imaging.
Hereby, it is good for radiology, breast, interventional and more.
The series consist of several models including: Logiq E9, P7 and the portable Logiq E.
The Vivid Series
Dedicated to cardiovascular imaging.
Includes models such as Vivid E95, Vivid T8, Vivid S5, and the portable Vivid I and Q.
GE has also created the Venue series for point of care ultrasound machines and the Versana ultrasound series for dedicated urology care.
Philips Ultrasound Series
Philips base their ultrasound series on performance, like Siemens, rather than per application, but still offer ultrasounds for all types of applications by offering general imaging systems.
Entry level ultrasounds consists of models such as 350, 550 and 650.
Mid-range ultrasounds such as Affiniti 30, 50 and 70.
The high-end ultrasounds series from Philips, contains models such as Epiq 5 and 7.
Philips also offer the CX50, a portable ultrasound also for general imaging.
Canon Ultrasound Series
Canon, former Toshiba, has two lines of general ultrasounds.
Entry level systems such as 200g and 100MX
Consist of mid-line models such as Aplio 300, 400 and 500.
Furthermore, they have more recent and advanced models such as the i600, i700, and more.
Canon also offers a portable ultrasound for general imaging, the Viamo c100.
How Much does an Ultrasound Cost
Prices of used ultrasound machines vary a lot, as they depend on several factors like age, condition, and model.
At LBN Medical, you can find ultrasounds from 5.000 to 80.000 euros.
In the matrix below you find a simple overview of ultrasound prices based on main brands. The cost is determined per condition and the type of ultrasound system. Condition is split into new, refurbished and used, and type is defined as entry-level, mid-range and high tier.
Prices are in thousand euros and for systems box only.
In general, ultrasound systems on the used market are 4-7 years old.
As seen from the matrix, the upside of buying used or refurbished, is that you pick a more advanced system. Furthermore, encouraging the use of the equipment for as long as possible makes the medical imaging industry more sustainable.
As prices above are box only, you should add cost for probes. Prices of used probes depend mostly on the type of probe. A general rule of thumb is that:
- 2D probes cost 1.000 -2.000 euros
- 3D/4D probes cost 2.000 – 3.000 euros
- TEE probes cost 5.000 – 10.000 euros
If you want to learn more about prices and the factors that affect them read our full post on it.
There you will also find information on demo systems and more examples of models within each category.
Used, Refurbished, or New Ultrasounds
Now that you have overview of approximate prices for the categories, we would like to attach a few words to each.
Used equipment is a very broad category. Some companies merely move the systems, and they are sold “as is”. Options and configurations will be the same as the previous owner had, you have no choice in the matter.
This can be priced low, but also comes with slightly more risk.
However, at other companies, all used ultrasound machines for sale have been cleaned and tested by professional technicians. Basically, a high quality is ensured, and this is where you will find great value for money.
Might be surprising, but this can be a broad category too. You can get refurbished in the sense that it is defined by the seller, ISO refurbished, and OEM refurbished.
With general refurbishment the seller has put the system through a process, that may cosmetic and functionality aspects. For instance, cleaning and painting, parts replacement and installing options. However, it might not contain much.
Therefore, it is important to ask.
ISO certified or OEM refurbishment, included following more strictly defined processes.
At LBN Medical we do offer both refurbished, ISO and OEM refurbished systems.
New systems are of course brand new, there is not much more to say about that. Zero risk but at a higher price.
Hopefully you are now a little more aware of what kind of ultrasound you need and how much it cost.
And of course you can always reach out with questions.
Now there are only a few extra aspects to consider, for you to pick the right model.
You can read about each in the bars below.
Most ultrasounds come with general options , but if you do more specialised examinations, you typically need to add those specific options.
This is what licenses are, they open for the software for those extra functionalities. In some cases the software need to be added, rather than just opened.
It can be for certain obstetric or cardiac options, for instance 4D.
So, check the licenses and options, make sure that you have what you need, and ask if you are in doubt.
The port is where the ultrasound probes are plugged into the ultrasound machine.
Not all ultrasound probes have the same connector type, so it is important that the ultrasound and probes are compatible.
Furthermore, if you do several types of examinations you also need more probes, and it often eases workflow that there are enough ports that they can all remain plugged.
Number of ports can differ per ultrasound model, so make sure you check that you have enough for the probes you want.
Year of Manufacture
Age of ultrasound equipment is not necessarily important.
However, it can be, if your country has restrictions for import, or if you need state of the art new options that simply do not exist on older models.
Make sure that you are covered, but also that you do not pay for more than you need.
Year of manufacture is also linked to software version and hardware version which is again linked to the options and probes.
However, if you need something specific, both software and hardware are sometimes upgradable.
Ultrasounds differ in what power they need. They can be compatible with either 110V or 220V.
What you have access to in your country should determine the power supply of the ultrasounds or if you should get a transformer.
The user language of the system can depend on where it was bought from.
If you specifically want English, or another language, make sure that you state this.
Then there will be no surprises when you turn on your system for the first time.
Condition of Used Ultrasound Machines
In many cases condition might matter more than age.
Condition of used ultrasound machines can vary, even of systems of the same age.
It can depend on service and the general wear and tear.
If it is only the cosmetic condition and you would prefer that it looks up to date when it reaches you, consider having it painted by the reseller.
Then you will get an ultrasound machine that looks almost brand new.
Ultrasound Machine Peripherals
Last but not least there can be a number of peripherals, or accessories, that you might need on top, when you purchase a used ultrasound machine.
This include biopsy kits, printers and probes.
Which Ultrasound Probes to Get
To send and receive the signal and use your ultrasound system, you need probes, also called transducers.
First important point is that not all probes are compatible with all ultrasounds, so make sure you get the right one.
And ask our team if you are in doubt.
Secondly, different types of transducers are better for different types of examinations.
Like convex for abdominal and phased array for cardiac.
Generally, the different types differ in footprint, frequency, and piezoelectric crystal arrangement.
Let us go through one at a time.
Footprint, also called the aperture, is the part of the probe that is in contact with the body and comes in different shapes and sizes. The footprint is linked to the piezoelectric crystal arrangement, for instance with linear and convex probes.
The piezoelectric crystal arrangement is the part that obtains the image. Therefore, it affects the footprint, but also decides the shape of the ultrasound beam.
Frequency means the frequency of the sound waves emitted from the probe. Generally, higher frequencies offer better image quality, but not as deep penetration compared to lower frequencies.
The footprint size is relatively large, the beam shape is rectangular, and the frequency high (7 – 18Mhz).
Therefore, the near field resolution is good, which makes it good for superficial examinations of vascular, small parts, nerve, musculoskeletal, and breast.
Convex probes, or curved probes has a large footprint, a convex beam shape, and a low frequency (2.5 – 5Mhz).
Its low frquency makes it a good probe for in depth examinations.
Therefore, it is used for abdominal, vascular, nerve, musculoskeletal and GYN/OBS ultrasound examinations.
Additionally, there is a subtype called micro convex with a much smaller footprint, which is typically used in neonatal and paediatrics.
Phased Array Probes
Phased array are also called sector probes.
They come with a quite small footprint and emit low frequency ultrasounds (2 – 8Mhz).
Therefore, they offer lower resolution but deeper penetration.
Phased array probes have narrow and almost triangular beam points, but they can expand depending on the frequency applied.
They are typically used for imaging through acoustic windows in the skull or intercostal spaces.
On top of these standard probes, there is a range of more specialised probes.
They include internal probes, design for specific bodily orifices. Therefore, they have very small footprints.
Transoesophageal, or TEE probes produce images of the heart through the oesophagus.
There is also pencil probes, also called CW Doppler probes, for measuring blood movement and sound.
Additionally, there is a number of probes that are designed for surgical use, like laparoscopic probes.
What type of studies will I perform?
Most ultrasounds are specialized to certain applications.
Therefore, this is important information to provide to your supplier, as this will guide the decision of which model to pick.
Certain brands dedicate series to certain applications and others aim for general imaging and shared service systems that can be customized to a range of applications.
What ultrasound brands are the best?
The most popular on the market are the major brands such as GE, Siemens, Philips, Canon (former Toshiba).
As these are high-quality brands, they are excellent systems that offer great value for money as used systems as well.
Which brand to pick is mainly about access to service providers in your region but also personal preference.
How much does an ultrasound cost?
Used and refurbished ultrasounds range from 5.000 euros to 60.000 euros.
Demo systems or very recent models can be a bit more expensive, and specific probes or accessories can also affect the price.
Prices of used systems are often around half the price of new ones.
Should I buy used, refurbished, or new?
This depends on your preference and your budget.
As used systems are cheaper, it means that you can get a more advanced used ultrasound for your budget than if you buy new.
For instance, you could pick a refurbished high-end ultrasound rather than a mid-range new ultrasound.
Of course, brand new systems can come with state of the art software, but those are mainly important for very specialized examinations.
What probes do I need?
Probe choice is also determined by the studies you perform, and of course which probes are compatible with your ultrasound model of choice.
Generally, you need a phased array and maybe a TEE probe for cardiac and convex and endocavity for OB/GYN.
How do I maintain my ultrasound and my probes?
Check it daily and do back-ups of the system.
For the probes, it is particularly important that you keep their cords off the floor to avoid stepping on them or running them over with the ultrasound.
Also that you clean them with the recommended cleaning agents to not dry out the lens.
If you made it this far in this guide to ultrasound machines and still have questions, please reach out. You can get further assistance from our professional team.
What is next?
You can get this blog as an an e-book: ‘How to pick your next ultrasound’ and become part of our ultrasound e-mail course.
In multiple e-mails, this course will guide you through several themes related to your next ultrasound purchase.