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How to choose an ultrasound machine – if you’re not a professional veterinarian, doctor or sonographer

Choosing your first ultrasound machine can be overwhelming. When thinking about purchasing an ultrasound machine, it’s vitally important that you buy from a reputable source.

Whilst ultrasound currently enjoys an impeccable safety record, it’s worth remembering that this is due to the responsible practices of professionals over many years. The current situation whereby untrained individuals can now purchase relatively low cost ultrasound equipment is historically unprecedented, and whilst it comes with fantastic benefits for animal care, it’s important not to be complacent about its dangers.

Ultrasound equipment, by law within the USA, EU and UK, should adhere to stringent international safety standards with regard to acoustic output and electrical safety. Unfortunately, a large number of ultrasound scanners currently imported into these territories do not, and our customs forces are simply spread too thinly to catch them all. Even when they do pull a shipment up for inspection, certain sellers (many of the Chinese sellers on eBay, or Keebomed in Iran and the USA) are well known for submitting documentation which has been approved for different equipment altogether, knowing that customs officials don’t match model numbers with documentation. Whilst the issue of false customs declarations has recently been subject of a Panorama documentary in the UK with respect to VAT fraud, it’s unlikely that anything will be done about it in the near term.

This is all very well until the point at which something goes wrong. If an animal is harmed by the mechanical, thermal or electrical outputs of that ultrasound equipment, the ultimate responsibility by law lays not with the manufacturer, nor the seller, but with the user of that ultrasound equipment. Scary, huh?

That is why knowing what you’re buying, who you’re buying from, and understanding some basic ultrasound physics and safely including the mechanical and thermal indicies, is so vitally important.

Below is a short clip featuring sonographer Yvette Lovis, explaining the importance of training and buying from a reputable source when entering the world of canine ultrasound scanning.

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