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Finding the best portable ultrasound machine

Portable is not really an application but the recognition that multiple applications will often be needed in the same ultrasound machine.

Click on any of the categories below to see the top 1-4 recommended portable ultrasound machines in that category. All machines in a category will have similar minimum features. The price range in a category will generally but not always be similar. Price fluctuates by the brand recognition of an ultrasound machine (well known brands carry a higher price) as well as the condition of the system. (Brand new machines have higher prices than refurbished or used portable ultrasound machines.)

Often the best value in a category will be a refurbished ultrasound system from a well-known brand. The feature set is the same as other competing machines in the segment but the price is much lower. If you know what segment you’re looking for choose one below and click to see what portable ultrasound machines are recommended in that feature range:

Categories of portable ultrasound machines

High-end

Most, but not all of the features of a premium console at a lower cost.

Midrange

The most commonly purchased systems with some premium features.

Economy

Basic systems with less advanced technology but at a lower price.

Handheld

Inexpensive and small with limited functionality but held in the hand.

B&W Portable

Extremely inexpensive portables with dated tech. & no Doppler

The best high-end portable ultrasound machines:

Recommended systems: Philips CX50, GE Vivid-q

The high-end portable ultrasound machine segment is small because of the difficulty in packing the computing power necessary to provide high-end image quality and features into a portable, hand-carried size. The Philips CX50 and the GE Vivid-q are the only two portable ultrasound machines thus far able to do so. The Philips CX50 is designed for cardiovascular, general imaging and shared service applications and offers not only the only advanced single crystal transducers in the portable ultrasound machine market, but also the only 4D TEE probe in the portable cardiovascular ultrasound segment. The CX50 offers onboard quantification and analysis through the advanced Qlab package. The CX50 is an incredible value because as a portable ultrasound machine it sells at low high-end prices while offering true premium image quality and performance. The GE Vivid q is the more advanced version of the cardiovascular focused Vivid i. The “q” stands for quantification, and the Vivid-q provides this quantification and analysis onboard. The Vivid-q offers a broad range of transducers and features including great pediatric and neonatal cardiac support.

The best midrange portable ultrasound machines:

Recommended systems: GE Vivid i, GE Voluson i, Samsung HM70a

Diagnostic ultrasound is quickly expanding to all markets across all countries because of it is so safe and incredibly useful in diagnosis of common problems across a wide variety of applications. In many developing markets the midrange portable ultrasound represents the best option because it allows a single unit to be shared easily by multiple doctors in multiple rooms or locations. Many private practice physicians in more develop nations are acquiring a midrange portable ultrasound machine as a second, backup system able to travel to a second office, or provide scans during peak times when both machines will be utilized at once. A midrange portable ultrasound machine emphasizes image quality and workflow efficiencies to allow quick diagnosis in the majority of common scans. To reduce the price and keep the form factor light, many features are limited or removed, however with the 3 options recommended here there is still a deep, if narrowly specialized feature set. GE is able to keep feature sets deep by narrowing them by application. The GE Voluson i is the most advanced 4D OB/GYN, women’s health portable ultrasound machine available in the world but it’s GI and Cardiovascular abilities are limited or nonexistent. The Voluson-i’s 2D and 4D image quality is excellent. The GE Vivid i is perhaps the most well known cardiovascular portable ultrasound in the midrange segment because it still offers a tremendous amount of cardiac features and transducers in a midrange priced portable package. It’s 2D, Doppler and CW image quality are good to excellent. The Samsung HM70A offers a blended approach with good 4D for OB/GYN and good cardiac imaging but a smaller set of features and transducers for both. The HM70A also offers a lower price though the quality and reliability of this Samsung portable ultrasound are on par with GE’s portables.

The best economy portable ultrasound machines:

Recommended systems: GE Logiq e, Sonosite M-turbo

Economy portable ultrasound machines are in high demand as secondary units for doctors with multiple facilities, in price sensitive regions or for medical professionals that only occasionally perform ultrasound scans. An economy portable ultrasound will be light, have acceptable image quality with a color flat screen monitor and limited features and hardware power in order to stay price competitive. This segment has become crowded with many new brands that are attempting to grow into developing markets or to take market share with new users of diagnostic ultrasound who have not yet formed a brand preference. The GE Logiq e is the most well-known, and best selling portable ultrasound machine with a low price. There are lower priced options, but none with the smooth GE workflow, proven reliability and breadth of transducer and application options. The Logiq e replaced the older GE Logiqbook. The Logiq e is a safe choice and continues to be developed and supported. The SonoSite M-turbo is a 4th generation Sonosite portable ultrasound that is the smallest in non-handheld segment and has the reputation as the most rugged. Sonosite was developed to be a military grade ultrasound machine carried into the field and that heritage is preserved in the M-turbo. Though only offering acceptable and sometimes poor image quality and more limited probes the Sonosite portables have kept a strong following of loyal users who praise their rugged reliability and extreme portability and are not bothered by the smaller screen or lower image quality levels.

The best handheld portable ultrasound machines:

Recommended systems: GE Venue 40, GE Vscan

The handheld ultrasound machine category did not exist only a few years ago, but GE has successfully begun the category and now several brands have followed suit and created tablet sized ultrasound machines or smaller. Typically these systems are very limited by their size to providing a “quick look” into a small range of basic scans. Doctors rarely use these handheld ultrasounds as their only source of diagnosis, but as a backup or initial form of discovery, or for a very specialized type of scan. The GE Vscan is the size of a flip style cellphone and has only a single sector style transducer that is good for deep penetration needed for abdominal and cardiac scans using 2D and limited color. Because the screen size is so small and the hardware so limited one needs to be realistic about what can be expected from such a small ultrasound machine. With those realistic expectations the Vscan can be incredibly helpful and reduce the need to bring in larger more expensive units when a “quick look” is all that is needed to determine further action. A new version of the Vscan known as the Vscan dual greatly expands what the Vscan is capable of by creating a unique dual transducer that has a linear scan head on one side and the original sector scan head on the other side with the probe cable coming out the side. It remains to be seen how durable and ergonomic this option will be but it certainly has broadened the Vscan’s capabilities. The GE Venue 40 is a tablet sized handheld ultrasound machine with a broader set of 4 probes (no endocavitary) and greater application support, but

The best black & white portable ultrasound machines

Recommended systems: Sonoscape A6

Originally all ultrasound machines were black and white only. (2D B & M modes) But now most diagnostic ultrasound machines have color and Doppler as a standard feature. Black and white portable ultrasounds are however gaining market share because of their extremely low price. Most new ultrasound machine manufacturers are using these low cost B&W portables to break into new markets that could not previously afford diagnostic ultrasound. The drawbacks to these systems are a lack of quality and reliability that have turned many doctors off to ultrasound altogether because of these predictable shortcomings. Technical glitches, buggy software, boot up failures and other problems have made a large number of brand new B&W portable ultrasounds useless in a few days or months. A few brands however have done better than others at addressing not only the reliability issues, but also poor workflow that makes them extremely hard to use and unintuitive. SonoScape has done an acceptable job of balancing cost savings with better (though still not great) reliability and a somewhat simpler workflow. The SonoScape A6 is an acceptable black and white portable ultrasound that uses the standard box-like monitor with a drawbridge keyboard design that comes from 10-15 years ago when hardware could not be fit into a smaller laptop sized format. The one advantage to this format is the space to put two probe ports rather than the usual one. The A6 can colorize its B&W images for better visibility and the screen is good quality. Though the SonoScape A6 is much cheaper (half to a third of the price of most economy portable ultrasound machines) it is still able to do most general imaging and OB/GYN scans that do not require Doppler or 3D.

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