When choosing an ultrasound machine, it can be difficult to know what probes work best for your practice and ultrasound machine. To help you find the right probes, Probo Medical has developed ultrasound transducer guides to help healthcare providers and imaging professionals navigate through the often confusing process of purchasing ultrasound probes and ultrasound equipment. However, not everyone is familiar enough with diagnostic imaging technology to read our ultrasound transducer guides and understand what each descriptor means. That’s why we’ve created this guide to be used either with our transducer guides for easy reference or as a standalone introduction to ultrasound probes.
Here, we explain the different types of ultrasound probes as well as helpful information about probe names, applications, bandwidths, fields of view, and more details. After reading this, you will be on your way to making sure the probe you purchase is a perfect fit for your practice and current ultrasound equipment. If you have more questions or need immediate assistance, please contact us to speak with our team of ultrasound sales professionals.
Probe types are most easily determined by looking at the shape of the probe. Each type of probe has a different clinical specialty, but some can be used for a myriad of tests. We’ll explain some of the most popular ones below in detail.
Linear probes have a flat array and appearance. They have a higher frequency and are used to scan small parts and shallow structures near the surface like the thyroid in your neck. Linear probes produce a more square or rectangular image. Some of our best selling linear probes are the 12L-RS and the 9L-D from GE.
Convex probes (also called curved linear probes) have a curved array that allows for a wider field of view at a lower frequency. Convex probes are primarily used for abdominal scans due to their wider depth and deeper penetration. Some of our best-selling convex probes are the C5-1 and the V6-2 from Phillips.
Endocavitary probes are specifically crafted to facilitate internal scanning during rectal or vaginal exams, featuring a longer handle and a "U" shaped lens and array. While their depth range may not be extensive, they offer a broader field than convex probes. Notably, our best-selling endocavity probes are the GE RIC5-9A-RS and the Mindray SD8-1E.
Phased Array/Cardiac Probes
Phased array or cardiac probes have a smaller handle with a square-shaped lens and array. Usually, they scan images of the heart. Phased array probes will have greater depth in order to reach the heart and produce an image.
Transesophageal (TEE) Probes
TEE probes are cardiac type probes that provide an obstructed image of the heart by inserting the probe into the esophagus, and into the patient’s stomach. These probes move 4 different directions, and movement is controlled by the handle controls.
3D probes function the same as 2D probes, with the exception of a moving array. The array inside the probe moves in a sweeping motion and captures slices of images from different sides. The captured slices are then all put together to produce a 3D still image, or a 4D live image.
Ultrasound probe nomenclature can seem like a mystery, and sometimes not even the best of us understand what each letter and number means. Each brand has its own way of naming the probes to indicate their abilities and specialties. For example, GE’s pencil transducers all start with a “P” – like the P2D.
The numbers typically indicate the bandwidth of the probe. Using the GE C1-6-D for example, the bandwidth is 1.4-6.0 MHz which is represented by the 1 and the 6 in the probe name. It is also a convex probe, represented by the “C”, and has a digital connector, which is represented by the “D”.
The description of the probe is pretty straight forward. It typically explains the probe type, the aspects that differentiate it from other probes, and states any neat features that it has that can enhance your practice.
Likely this is the most important section for you to look at as it explains what the probe is made to do. Since the transducer guides are already separated by system, your next focus should be finding probes that fit the applications offered by your practice. Fortunately, each of our transducer guides has a search bar on the top right so you can type in the application you need. Then, you can look through the rest of the guide to determine what bandwidth, field of view, and footprint fit your needs best. When you find the probe you need, you can most likely click the probe name as it is linked to our product page.
Field of View
Depending on the type of probe, this will be described in mm or in degrees. The field of view is how large of an area the probe’s image displays while scanning. Linear probes only scan straight down, so their field of view is most likely explained in mm terms. Other probes have a curved array, so their field of view is described by degrees.
For the probes that have field of views described in degrees, think of it like this image of a protractor. If it’s 120 degrees, it will have a field of view of 0-120 degrees on the protractor. We’re bringing you back to 4th grade math class and we promise you’ll get an A+ this time.
Bandwidth is the range of frequency that the probe emits electrical pulses from the piezoelectric crystals. Ultrasound probe bandwidth can be compared to golf – the further you want to hit, the lower the number of golf club you use. On the other hand, the more accurate you need to be, the higher number of golf club you want to use. For example, for distance, you’d use a 2 Iron versus a 9 Iron. Get the idea?
The goal is to get the most accurate club that can hit the distance you need. The same can be applied to ultrasound probes. For deeper scans, you need a low frequency. For more superficial scans, you need a high frequency. What you must balance is depth vs frequency in that you want the clearest, most accurate picture possible. And that’s when you rely on our educated team to guide you towards the best probe for the tests you are performing.
This section explains what options the probe has for biopsy guides.
Depth of Field
The depth of field explains how deep the ultrasound probe can scan.
The footprint provides measurements of how large the ultrasound probe area is that would be touching the patient’s body. This is an important metric when you take into consideration where the probe will be scanning when imaging a patient.
Find the Right Probes with Probo Medical
If you need a new or refurbished ultrasound probe, give us a call at 866-513-8322 or email us at [email protected] and one of our knowledgeable ultrasound transducer sales specialists will be happy to answer your questions!