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What is Mobile Ultrasound?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

Ultrasound technology is an important part of many medical exams and procedures, from pregnancy check-ups to organ evaluations and some cancer treatments. The equipment needed to perform ultrasounds can be expensive, however. Medical centers and doctors’ offices that do not have routine uses for ultrasound machines often have a hard time justifying the cost. A mobile ultrasound that is not tethered to a specific location and can come directly to the patient may be perfect in these situations. Doctors sometimes collaborate together to purchase a mobile ultrasound that several practices can share, or equipment can be rented for specific appointments from mobile ultrasound services.

Sonograms are perhaps the most common procedures associated with ultrasounds. In a sonogram, an obstetrician uses ultrasound technology to monitor the growth of a fetus during pregnancy. Most hospitals have permanent ultrasound machines in order perform sonography services on the many patients that come through their doors, as do many obstetricians whose practices center on pregnancies. Ultrasound sonographs are essential parts of pregnancy care, and practices that do not own the equipment usually look into mobile options so that it can be on hand when needed.

A woman holding a prenatal ultrasound.
A woman holding a prenatal ultrasound.

Permanent ultrasounds are usually large machines that require a certain degree of training to operate properly. One must usually be trained as a sonographer in order to operate an ultrasound machine on a pregnant woman, for instance. Most obstetricians are also sonographers if they own ultrasound equipment, as are most hospital staff who regularly have contact with ultrasound equipment. Training is not usually burdensome, but it does require regular exercise and use. General practice doctors in rural areas who have only occasional use for sonograms, or doctors in clinics that usually serve only minor injuries or illnesses not requiring ultrasound treatment, may find it hard to keep up with training.

Mobile ultrasound equipment is by and large easier and more straightforward to use than the permanent versions. Many of the mobile ultrasound machines on the market today are quite small, often no bigger than a laptop computer. These machines require less training, but sometimes take more time for results: technicians can see ultrasound images on portable machines, but must often wait several days for images to be scanned and printed, and for viewed conditions and results to be confirmed. Printed images are not essential, but are often used for diagnoses, especially in tumor and organ failure situations.

Doctors interested in mobile sonogram and ultrasound technology have a few options. Depending on location and the density of doctors in a given community, it may make sense for several medical practices to together purchase one mobile ultrasound machine that can be shared between them. Another option is contracting for one-time ultrasound services from a mobile ultrasound company.

For-hire traveling ultrasound services are often staffed by trained sonographers and ultrasound technicians. They will travel to the doctor’s office, and will often assist in the exam. Most of the time, they will also process the results, and coordinate with the doctor for transmitting printouts and other files.

As technology continues to develop, the mobile ultrasound market likely will, too. The Internet is increasingly being used in rural medical situations, and ultrasound software programs in development promise to make the technology available anywhere there is an Internet connection. Permanent, standing ultrasound machines may soon be a thing of the past.

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    • A woman holding a prenatal ultrasound.
      By: ventura
      A woman holding a prenatal ultrasound.