Evaluation Background: Wireless Ultrasound Probes
September 16, 2019 | Evaluations & Guidance
Here's background for our Evaluations of wireless ultrasound probes—both those used for superficial and those used for deep applications—outlining the key considerations for making wise purchasing decisions. Learn how the technology is used, which specs are important, and what factors we test for. Also review our latest product ratings and ECRI's data describing hospitals' interest in each vendor.
The primary purpose of wireless probes and other diagnostic ultrasound scanners is to obtain images and other data that is used for diagnosis. These devices are also used to provide ultrasound image guidance for interventional procedures such as biopsies or surgery.
A wireless probe transmits data via Wi-Fi to a smartphone or tablet computer for image display. Proprietary software on the display device allows users to enter patient data, optimize imaging parameters, perform measurements, and store images or export them to a remote location for sharing and archiving.
Wireless probes may have a convex linear-array (CLA) transducer for deep applications such as assessing the kidneys, a flat linear-array (FLA) transducer for superficial applications such as assessing the thyroid, or a dual-transducer design with both types to expand the device's range of applications. The ultrasound transducer transmits ultrasound signals into the patient and receives echoes that are used to create a display of the anatomy, or to provide other data such as the direction of blood flow. (To learn more about the various available transducers for different applications, see our article Types of Ultrasound Transducers. )
Diagnostic ultrasound is a mature technology that has been commercially available since the 1950s. It continues to experience gradual technological evolutions, such as improvements in image quality, as well as revolutionary advances, such as pulsed-wave Doppler and 3-D imaging, that have extended the diagnostic potential of the modality.
A recent development is the use of ultrasound technologies at the point of care, which has many diverse clinical applications. Wireless probes are used primarily for point-of-care ultrasound, or POCUS, applications. The use of ultrasound continues to expand into new medical disciplines, and the use of POCUS in existing settings such as emergency medicine and anesthesia is becoming the standard of care. (Read more about POCUS, including specific examples of diagnostic and ultrasound-guided interventional POCUS applications for which wireless probes and other scanners can be used, in our article Point-of-Care Ultrasound Scanners: An Introduction. For additional guidance, see Point-of-Care Ultrasound Scanners: Key Purchasing Considerations. )
Wireless ultrasound probes have been available for several years, and their use is growing. The advantages of wireless probes over conventional ultrasound scanners—including their relatively low cost, ease of...