Although advanced imaging techniques, such as CT scans and MRIs, are rarely used outside of large professional practices, new ultrasound systems have become common tools in the average veterinary office. Even so, buying a veterinary ultrasound or choosing to upgrade your current system is a major financial commitment. Consider following our Veterinary Ultrasound Buyer’s Guide to help you make the right decision for our veterinary practice.
Human vs. Veterinary Ultrasounds
What is the difference?
Although distributors and manufacturers market human and veterinary ultrasounds differently, both machines are essentially the same. The main difference between the two systems is their software and available presets. For example, veterinary ultrasound will provide pre-loaded veterinary presets to help simplify your workflow.
Do you need a specialized vet ultrasound or will a human ultrasound be enough for your practice?
While both machines are fundamentally the same, human ultrasounds tend to be more advanced than veterinary ultrasounds. This fact is often due to the strict regulations placed on human ultrasounds in order for the systems to achieve FDA compliance. Hence, these systems will have clearer and more clinically correct images. Additionally, human systems often offer a greater selection of transducers (probes) when compared to veterinary models.
Despite these advanced features, the cost of a human ultrasound machine is not automatically higher than that of a veterinary model. Oftentimes, hospitals will routinely upgrade their machines, resulting in an influx of “used” systems that can still greatly benefit your practice.
Questions to Ask
Will you need basic or advanced functionality?
All ultrasounds are capable of performing non-invasive imaging of internal organs. However, there is a significant difference between basic and advanced functionality in ultrasounds.
Basic functionality has set limits in its ability to measure or perform certain functions. Meanwhile, advanced functionality simplifies tasks and offers features that can streamline your workflow. Advanced features also bolster image quality and recognition by using features, such as Tissue Adaptive Imaging (TAI), which continuously and automatically optimizes images allowing for more focus on different kinds of animals.
More advanced features that can optimize workflow are highly sensitive touch screens, multiple ultrasound ports, customizable user interfaces for personalized design, and multiple data management methods.
What accessories will you need?
Accessories, such as transducers, can greatly affect the cost of the ultrasound system. For example, veterinary practices that cater to large and small animals will require more types of transducers, such as linear and curved transducers. Together, these two transducers will add an additional $8,000-$12,000 to your overall cost. Other “add-on” options, such as warranties and on-site staff training, are important factors to consider when analyzing the final cost of your system.
What features should I look for?
Features such as imaging enhancements, specialized enhancements, and ease-of-use features are important to consider when choosing an ultrasound.
There are two types of high-resolution imaging: spatial resolution and contrast resolution. The spatial resolution can clearly distinguish two separate but very close objects. The contrast resolution can distinguish objects of different densities based on small differences in brightness.
Ultrasounds with features like Speckle Reduction Imaging will be able to enhance both the spatial and contrast resolution. Other features, such as automatic image optimization, can effectively improve image quality. This reduces inspection time and improves diagnostic capabilities.
Specialized applications like on-board reporting systems and needle guidance enhancements, can help increase your diagnostic capabilities. Modern onboard reporting systems offer customizable report templates and cloud capabilities. This results in sharable reports you can use to easily collaborate with other veterinary specialists. Needle guidance enhancements can help achieve clearer imaging and more easily navigate the procedure by giving you more precision during needle placement.
Design features such as swivel/tilting monitors, simultaneous split-screen features, customizable scanning protocol programs, and “plug and play” presets can offer a quicker and more comfortable imaging experience while enhancing your diagnostic capabilities.
How much is your practice willing to spend on an ultrasound system?
After determining the accessories and features your practice requires in an ultrasound system, take a moment to calculate your ROI (Return on Investment). For example:
Let’s say your veterinary practice purchased DVMPRO’s Omni 3 with one transducer for $14,750. If your veterinary practice will on average complete two ultrasounds a week, charging $100 an ultrasound, you would calculate your ROI as follows:
$100 x 2 ultrasounds a week x 50 weeks per year= $10,000
Your ROI would be 74 weeks, about a year and a half. You can apply this equation when looking at different models to help determine where you should set your budget. Another crucial step in determining your budget is deciding how you will purchase your system such as choosing to pay outright or use a third party leasing option.
The main obstacles in the purchase process, such as worrying about overpayment and not being sure of which features and accessories to add, will hinder your purchasing process. Understanding what affects ultrasound pricing will help you choose the perfect system for your practice and ensure you get the best price available.
First things first, it is important to note that the cost of your ultrasound depends on how you intend to use it and what you intend to use it for. This will affect three major ultrasound components which will ultimately determine your total out of pocket:
- Transducer needs and costs
- Type of ultrasound system
The first factor that affects the cost is portability. On average, the lowest priced ultrasounds will be the portable ultrasound systems. Portable ultrasounds with only one transducer will usually cost around $15,000-$18,000. Meanwhile, a high-end portable ultrasound with cardiology features will cost anywhere between $38,000-$100,000.
Portable models offer great versatility, especially for practices that tend to work outside of their office or with older animals. For example, portable ultrasounds can be easily transported during off-site visits for larger animals such as horses. These ultrasounds can also be beneficial to the office space, especially when dealing with restless or sickly animals that require you to carry the system to whichever space they feel more comfortable in.
The number of transducers (probes) you decide to purchase will also greatly affect the price of the ultrasound system. Generally speaking, a single transducer will cost between $4,000 and $5,000.
There are four main types of veterinary transducers to keep in mind when purchasing your ultrasound system:
The micro-convex transducer is the most commonly used transducer in veterinary practices. These transducers can be used on a wide variety of animals ranging from small patients like patients as big as large dogs. Usually, a micro-convex probe with a frequency between 3 MHz to 9 MHz is a minimum requirement among most veterinary practices.
The second most common transducer is the linear probe. This probe is designed for small pets such as cats, small dogs, or other pocket pets.
Less common but important transducer types are the curved and phased transducers. The curved transducer is often used for giant-breed dogs or other large animals such as horses. The phased transducer is often used as the standard for cardiac imaging.
Type of Ultrasound System
Knowing what type of ultrasound system you need will be very helpful in narrowing down your ultrasound options and can help you avoid overpaying. For example, musculoskeletal and abdominal scans do not require high-end ultrasounds but can be easily completed with basic portable ultrasounds that usually cost between $15,000-$18,000. However, if your practice needs an ultrasound for cardiology purposes, then a portable high-end ultrasound with cardiology features would better fit your needs. This type of ultrasound would cost anywhere between $38,000 and $100,000.
After learning what affects the cost of ultrasounds, it is important to know the average price for different types of ultrasounds.
As previously stated, portable ultrasounds with only one transducer will usually cost around $15,000-$18,000. Meanwhile, a high-end portable ultrasound with cardiology features will cost anywhere between $38,000-$100,000.
Non-portable models tend to be pricer options. A basic entry-level ultrasound usually costs between $25,000 and $40,000, while a top of the line system with multiple transducers can cost up to $250,000.
When comparing the prices of your desired machine, it is always important to make sure the system comes with on-site training, a micro-convex transducer (usually each system will come with one transducer of your choice), DICOM storage, and veterinary software.
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Wooten, Sarah, “Investing in veterinary imaging: A tale of two ultrasounds” (2017, August 29). DVM 360. https://www.dvm360.com/view/investing-veterinary-imaging-tale-two-ultrasounds
Laurenwannall. (2019, July 15). Selecting the best veterinary ultrasound machine. National Ultrasound. https://www.nationalultrasound.com/selecting-best-veterinary-ultrasound-machine/
How much does a veterinary ultrasound system cost? (2019, January 3). SOUND Technologies. https://soundvet.com/much-veterinary-ultrasound-system-cost/
6 features to look for in veterinary ultrasound equipment. (2018, December 31). SOUND Technologies. https://soundvet.com/6-features-to-look-for-in-veterinary-ultrasound-equipment/