Ultrasound Transducer Types and How to Select the Right Transducer

Ultrasound transducer used on an abdomen

Are you buying an ultrasound for the first time? This decision involves two components – choosing the right ultrasound according to your needs and the perfect transducer or probe (s)  for your ultrasound. 

Choosing the right transducer also called probe for your ultrasound is a critical but not-so-easy decision to make because the type of the probe differs according to the body part you have to scan with it. Second, the image quality of an ultrasound scan comes from the ultrasound probes.

Superficially, a transducer is of two kinds: an external transducer which goes over different parts of the body and internal transducer that goes inside the body orifices like rectum and vagina.  

Other than, this obvious divide, the selection of transducer relies on other factors too. The more important ones are footprint and frequency. If these words sound alien to you, you should continue reading to know more.

However, first, we need to understand how does a transducer work?

A transducer is a device that converts energy from one form to another. The function of a transducer also called probe in an ultrasound machine is to produce sound waves into the body and receive echoes which form an image on the computer screen of the ultrasound machine known as a sonogram. Selecting the right transducer is critical for clinical confidence. The image quality of an ultrasound depends on a transducer. 

  • What factors do you need to consider while determining the nature of the probe?

The selection of a probe is made on the basis of frequency and footprint. The probe is an important accessory in an ultrasound. The shape of the probe determines its field of view. The right probe is essential to get good images. Therefore, while choosing the type of probe in an ultrasound, you have to keep in mind frequency and footprint.

The footprint of the transducer refers to the area of the skin that comes into contact with a probe to create an image. Frequency of a transducer refers to the frequency of the sound waves produced by that particular probe. Transducers with higher frequency images produce clearer but shallow images. 

  • What are the common types of transducers in an ultrasound?

There are four basic types of probes used:

  1. Linear ultrasound probes such as GE L12 have a high frequency and a small footprint. They are a good choice for scanning the bodyparts where the surface area is small, like breast , thyroid,  Arteria carotis of vascular application and the nerves and are not deep inside the tissue. Others liner probe are Philips L 12-3 .
  2. Curvilinear ultrasound probes also know as convex probe are low-frequency transducers. They have a wide footprint. Because of low resolution, they offer good penetration. However, the density of the scan lines reduces as the image depth increases, which means you might have to compromise on the image quality. Second, the transducer must be compressed against the skin to ensure complete contact. This may create complications by occluding small blood vessels.  Some of the examples of convex transducers are GE 4C – RS Convex Probe , Sonosite C60 E.
  3. Phase array or sector ultrasound probes produces a fan-like image. It is ideal for scanning small windows such as the cranial window in the temple or for cardiac imaging. These transducers have good depth penetration. Preowned cardiac transducer for Philips HD 15, Cardiac probe of DC7 Ultrasound machine , GE 3Sc – RS – Adult Cardiac Probe
  4. Endocavitary ultrasound probes have a high-frequency range and better imaging as transvaginal & transrectal probes. GE E8C Micro Convex Endocavity Ultrasound Probe. GE RIC5-9W RS 3D/4D Endocavitary TVS Probe , GE RIC5-9A RS 3D/4D

Most transducers are broadband, which means they can operate at a range of frequencies. A good rule of thumb is to scan at the highest frequency possible. It will help you get a clearer image. 

By increasing the frequency you increase the depth of the image and by reducing the frequency you can access deeper structures. 

Buy and repair new, used or refurbished ultrasound transducers for different brands and model ultrasound scanners like GE Voluson P8, GE LogiQ P5, GE Vivid i, GE Voluson S6 S8 , Philips HD 11, Philips HD 15 and many more.

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