How It Works: Cardiac Ultrasound Probes and Transducers
Our “How it Works” ultrasound blog article series discusses basic integral functions and details of ultrasound technology. Going into depth about ultrasound probes, connectors, pediatric and neonatal probes, and various imaging modes, this series is here to help you, our reader, expand your ultrasound knowledge.
This particular article will discuss cardiac ultrasound transducers and many crucial features that are important to know as a patient, diagnostician, sonographer, or intrigued reader.
Obviously, cardiac transducers are employed in order to project images of the hearts of various patients. As ultrasound technology has improved and advanced, diagnosticians and sonographers have been capable of examining more patients at different phases in development. While originally, adult and pediatric patients were the primary audience for cardiac tests, as technology evolved it became more common for neonatal and even fetal cardiac exams to be undergone.
Due to the intricacies of the heart, and all the potential problems that can occur, there are several types of cardiac ultrasound tests that can be done. Some of these exams include stress echo to check the heart function under pressure, doppler cardiac ultrasound to examine blood flow to and from the arteries and valves, ultrasound images to examine the structure (in 2D/3D/4D), and TEE or transesophageal imaging.
In order to successfully conduct an ultrasound test, one needs an ultrasound probe that is capable of projecting images for the specific test that one wishes to complete. A probe that is used to examine cardiac structure, for example, usually cannot also conduct a doppler image test. Before discussing the types of cardiac probes available, let’s quickly delve into different cardiac applications:
Conventional cardiac ultrasound: conventional cardiac ultrasound exams project images of the heart structure. Conducting this exam helps diagnosticians identify structural damage, the arterial walls, and the heart valves. These tests can be performed in 2D, 3D, or 4D (live 3D) modes.
Stress ultrasound test: Stress tests are conducted by straining a patient’s heart, usually on a treadmill. Once the heart is “stressed”, the test is done to make sure that the heart is functioning properly under strain.
TEE Imaging: TEE imaging, or transesophageal imaging, is a specific type of cardiac imaging, where a TEE probe is placed down one’s throat, through the esophagus, in order to show high quality images of the arteries, heart structure and valves. Because the transducer is placed closer to the organ, the quality of the image is significantly enhanced.
Fetal Echo / Heart: This test is a more advanced cardiac exam, that examines the fetus’ developing heart, that it is functioning and developing as it should be. It is a more advanced and recent study, but has revolutionized OB-GYN and cardiac imaging alike.
There are many different types of probes and transducers that are able to conduct various exams. Here are a list of a few:
Sector Array/ Phased Array probes: These probes project images of the heart structure, and are used for conventional cardiac exams. They can, depending on the technology of the specific transducer, also project 3D/4D images of the heart for greater depth and resolution.
CW/Doppler probes: Doppler transducers, also known as continuous wave, blind, or pedoff probes, are used to examine and diagnose the quality of blood flow. Applying doppler imaging to a cardiac test, therefore, allows a sonographer or diagnostician to examine the blood flow to, from and through the heart.
TEE Probes: Transesophageal probes, as we’ll discussed above, provide a higher quality cardiac image than most other transducers. They are more difficult to find than the other transducers, and are generally more expensive. That being said, many believe that the image quality makes this transducer a worthwhile investment.
Matrix Probes: These probes are one of the most advanced transducers on the market. These probes have a wider frequency range than most other cardiac probes, and can subsequently produce images for adult, pediatric, neonatal and fetal echo cardiac images.
One of many Cardiac Probes
Many ultrasound machines are capable of providing cardiac imagery, such as the Acuson X3000 Ultrasound system, the GE Vivid S5 ultrasound system and the Acuson Cypress Plus Portable Ultrasound system.
There is always the concern, particularly when it comes to medical equipment, regarding the safety of the devices and the potential side effects that occur as a result of employing these machines.
It is important to know that ultrasound machines are known to be completely harmless. They function through the utilization of sound waves emitting from the probe or transducer. These sound waves are then translated into images by the ultrasound machine or system. There is no need to fear when using ultrasound machines – it is a quick, easy and efficient way to diagnose and help determine a patient’s ails.
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