By James Markland
Axess Ultrasound of Indianapolis, IN, provides ultrasound services, including probe and system repair, technician training, and ultrasound parts for nearly 1,000 hospitals and healthcare facilities worldwide. Axess now offers testing and repair capabilities for the Philips series of high-tech X7-2t 3D/4D transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) probes. This gives healthcare providers the option of high quality repair instead of costly replacement. Axess has also developed the capability to remove and replace the tip case of the X7-2t probes allowing for deeper access and enabling repair technicians to more accurately test and conduct repairs.
The tip case (including the lens) is a medical grade plastic assembly that encloses the array on all TEE probes. According to Bob Broschart, director of technical services, “The tip case and insertion tube is the part of the probe that comes into direct contact with the patient, so it receives the most prevalent damage. For that same reason, it is an area of gravest concern for patient safety as it relates to cross contamination and electrical safety.”
Being able to remove and replace the tip case allows better access to the intricate parts of the probe enabling technicians to conduct more repair types than ever before.
“In the case of X7-2t probes that have come to our facility for repair to date, about a quarter of them required a full tip overhaul,” said Broschart. “Historically, we would not be able to repair those probes or we’d have to send them back to the OEM. Now we are able to remove the tip and make specific repairs rather than replacing the entire probe. This capability saves customers thousands of dollars.”
Advancements in imaging technology have made 3D/4D TEE probes some of the most costly to replace on the market. Being able to repair a Philips X7-2t probe versus replacing it can save providers up to 60 percent.
“In addition, opting for repair significantly improves the longevity of the ultrasound probe while maintaining the history of the device,” said Broschart. “This enables end users to keep equipment compliant at all times—all while saving thousands of dollars.”
Broschart also noted the customer benefits of the more advanced probe. “Using the 3D/4D capability, a cardiologist can now see more potential diseases and heart malfunctions as opposed to a standard TEE procedure. This opens the door to better diagnosis of heart problems and improved patient outcomes.”
“The probe is a very expensive and highly complex technology. The matrix array features several thousand ‘elements’,” said Broschart. “Yet, as with all TEE probes, it is still subject to bite marks, damage, and so on. Additionally, the array in this probe has an imbedded ASIC (application specific integrated circuit) device that controls the probe. If this ASIC goes bad in any way, the probe is non-repairable.”
Servicing the high-tech Philips probe has been a considerable project for Axess. “We have been working on this development for 2 years,” said Broschart. “This probe has grown in installed base volume and continues to be the TEE of choice for Philips’ cardiac customers. At the moment, a full re-build, excluding the array, takes ten to twelve days. Minor repairs take three to seven days. The ability to repair this probe instead of replacing it obviously lowers cost significantly. In addition, using new replacement parts can increase the life of the probe with proper care and use.”
Axess Ultrasound has full testing capabilities that allow for accurate assessment of the Philips X7-2t acoustic crystal elements prior to making repairs. Such testing creates a significant advantage by enabling technicians to obtain exact data about the problem. Broschart emphasizes an important point, “Knowing exactly what’s wrong with the probe allows us to make repairs rather than just fix the symptoms or deem the probe not repairable.”
Axess probe experts can give healthcare providers tips on ultrasound probe preventive maintenance as well. This helps providers maximize the life expectancy of ultrasound probes while reducing ultrasound system repair expenditures.