Cleaning and Disinfecting Diagnostic Ultrasound Transducers: Our Recommendations

July 25, 2018 | Evaluations & Guidance


The use of diagnostic ultrasound imaging has expanded beyond the conventional settings of radiology, cardiology, obstetrics, and vascular imaging. Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) is now widely utilized at the bedside throughout hospitals as well as in physician offices and clinics, and it has become an essential tool for aiding diagnoses and guiding interventions in settings such as emergency departments, anesthesia, and orthopedics. Because they are not imaging specialists, POCUS users, especially new ones, may have little experience with cleaning ultrasound transducers, also referred to as probes. It is critical that all users of ultrasound be familiar with, and utilize, the appropriate methods to clean and reprocess transducers between exams to comply with clinical guidelines and to avoid placing patients and users at risk for cross-contamination.

The Spaulding scheme (CDC 2017) is used to classify medical equipment, including ultrasound probes, based on each device's clinical applications and potential for cross-contamination; a device's category determines what level of reprocessing is required. Three categories are defined:

  1. Noncritical—Applies to transducers that come in contact only with intact skin. These are sometimes referred to as external transducers. Examples include transducers used for abdominal, cardiac, obstetric, vascular, and small parts applications when the patient's skin is intact in the region of examination.

  2. Semicritical—Applies to transducers that come in contact with internal mucosal surfaces such as the vagina, esophagus, or rectal vault, and any probe that is used to scan patients who have open wounds. Examples include transducers used for endovaginal (EV) obstetrics and gynecology, transesophageal echocardiography (TEE), and endorectal (ER) prostate applications, as well as external probes used to scan patients who have open wounds in the region of examination.

  3. Critical—Applies to transducers used in sterile body cavities. Examples include intraoperative hockey-stick-style, laparoscopic, and intravascular ultrasound (IVUS) transducers. Transducers and needle guides used for interventional procedures are also considered critical devices because...

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