Our Classification Scheme for Ultrasound Scanner Configurations

February 16, 2022 | Evaluations & Guidance


Diagnostic ultrasound scanners are available in a wide variety of sizes and types—from units small enough to fit in a lab coat pocket to large wheeled consoles weighing several hundred pounds. Numerous terms are used to describe an ultrasound scanner configuration, including conventional, full-size, mobile, portable, compact, hand-carried, and handheld, but they are often vague and mean different things to different people.

The diversity in scanner sizes, styles, and formats, combined with varying clinical demands and a lack of standardization in terminology, can make it challenging to identify comparable scanners and select the optimal scanner for a given clinical application. For example, some manufacturers call their small, cart-based models portable simply because they are small and lightweight, while describing models that are not on wheeled carts as compact or hand-carried.

Who performs ultrasound and where it is performed further complicate the terminology. For example, sonographers commonly refer to any study performed outside the ultrasound laboratory as portable, even if it is performed using a conventional scanner; this can create confusion about the meaning of both portable scanner and conventional scanner. Furthermore, the term conventional ultrasound users tends to be associated with imaging professionals such as sonographers, echocardiographers, and radiologists who specialize in the use of ultrasound and who typically use conventional scanners (specifically those models that provide high image quality and have advanced features to enhance diagnostic capability); however, other users may also use conventional scanners in a variety of applications.

Another possible source of confusion is point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS). The growing use of POCUS has drastically expanded the range of clinicians who use ultrasound and the settings in which it is used, so that the term POCUS scannercan also have a wide variety of meanings. Devices used for POCUS applications range from handheld probes that connect to a user-provided personal electronic device (PED), such as a cell phone, tablet,...

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