If you’re shopping for a veterinary ultrasound machine, you certainly don’t want to overpay or buy features that you will not use. In the same vein, you don’t want to spend good money on an ultrasound of lower quality, one that may be unreliable and need to be replaced in two-to-three years with little-to-no resale or trade-in value.
The cost of your ultrasound will ultimately depend on how you intend to use it:
- If you are looking for a basic ultrasound to get started, what are the must haves?
- Do you need a more capable system for performing cardiology exams?
- Do you need a portable system or is a console system a better solution?
- Regardless of what I am getting, what are my training requirements?
What are the most important factors that go into the upfront cost of an ultrasound system?
- Caseload and the Needs of Your Practice: Species Diversity, Types of Exams
- Portability Requirements: System Size and Functions
- Number and Type of Transducers
- What’s Included in the Standard Package including education options
Caseload and the Needs of Your Practice
It probably doesn’t make sense to pay $100,000 for an ultrasound if you only intend to use it on abdominal and musculoskeletal scans. For a quality starter system, the cost ranges from the high teens to about $35,000 depending on brand and capabilities. If you purchase a high-end starter system from a reliable vendor and an established manufacturer, it should be sufficient unless you use it for cardiology or other specialized applications.
If you do cardiology, you’ll want to invest in a more sophisticated system. A portable ultrasound with high-end cardiology features can range from $38,000 to $100,000.
Portable systems allow great versatility, both within your hospital and outside. Portable systems require much less space and are easy to maneuver between exam rooms, treatment areas, and the surgery suite – easier access to better medicine.
Portable systems tend to be slightly less expensive, but it wouldn’t be entirely accurate to say that they’re less sophisticated; and a high-end portable system with multiple transducers would certainly cost more than an entry-level console system with one transducer.
Transducers (aka probes)
Entry-level console systems range in price from about $25,000 to $40,000; however, depending on the number of probes (ultrasound transducers) you add to the entry-level system, that price could increase to $30,000 and into the mid-$40,000s. You can spend all the way up to $250,000 if you’re a specialty practice or a university that needs a top-of-the-line console ultrasound system with many different transducers.
The most common and most universal transducer is known as a microconvex transducer. Its versatility allows it to be used for small patients such as cats to large dogs…the larger the FOV (aperture), the greater the versatility.
Linear transducers are the second most common and are designed for small patients (pocket pets, cats, small dogs) and small organs such as thyroid glands and musculoskeletal structures. Linear transducers offer very high resolution, but are not capable of imaging deeper or larger structures
Larger curved array transducers are best suited for large and giant breed dogs, as well as horses and other very large species, offering the greatest penetration and imaging depth possible and are typically chosen by Radiologists and Internal Medicine specialists who scan patients all day.
Finally, phased array transducers are the standard for cardiac imaging, allowing very high frame rates (images per second) that allow assessment of high heart rates, and valvular and heart wall motion.
Many practitioners add on a linear transducer or a cardiac transducer or even several different cardiac transducers for different animal sizes. Transducers can cost from $4,000 to well over $6,000 each, so the number and types of transducers in your ultrasound configuration will impact the upfront cost.
What’s Included in the Standard Package
When you compare the price of two ultrasound machines, find out what’s included in the standard package. Whichever system you choose should come with on-site training, the micro-convex transducer, and the applicable veterinary software including DICOM storage. If you do cardiac scanning, the only thing you may need to add is the continuous wave Doppler transducer.
There are also some purchasable features like Raw Data, 3D and Panoramic imaging, but those come standard in some systems. It is important to understand how often and how impactful these capabilities are to making the exams easier or more informative.
Finally, do not underestimate value of a strong education provider. No matter what you spend, you need a partner that can help you develop your skills and grow the use of ultrasound in your practice.
The cost of your ultrasound…it depends on your practice’s current and future needs. If you’re new to ultrasound or your caseload is relatively low, a high-quality portable system with one transducer will cost $15,000 to $18,000 depending on the configuration you need. But if you intend to use your ultrasound for cardiology or other specialty applications, investing in a more sophisticated unit with multiple transducers would certainly be justified. Education, Education, Education.