The Latest on Ultrasound Transducer Storage

While attending a radiology conference, we met an ultrasound manager who shared an experience from her last inspection when objections were raised about her transducer storage system. She kindly shared the photo on the above right of their probe storage system. Can you see the issues with this particular system?

In October of 2013, The Joint Commission (TJC) provided guidelines for the storage of semi-critical devices:

“Store the device in a manner that will protect from damage or contamination and that is consistent with national guidelines and manufacturers’ recommendations such as hanging vertically in a cabinet and storing in a clean environment.”

Endoscopes have been carefully monitored for safe storage practices for some time now. TJC’s recent guideline includes all semi-critical devices. According to the Spaulding Classification, endocavity transducers are semi-critical devices. These transducers include endovaginal, endorectal and transesophageal (TEE) probes.

General purpose probes such as breast and abdominal transducers should also undergo high-level disinfection if they have been in contact with non-intact skin. We review probe classification in our Infection Control Standards blog.

Phenelle Segal, President and Founder of Infection Control Consulting Services (ICCS), confirmed the increasing scrutiny on ultrasound disinfection and storage, “My consulting travels have identified that accreditation agencies including Joint Commission and CMS are looking at disinfection of transvaginal and rectal probes. I’ve had clients change their high-level disinfection practices and that includes storage of the probes.”

In addition to TJC’s guidelines, here are more ultrasound probe storage pointers:

  • Make sure that the probes’ cables and electrical connectors do not come in contact with the probe during handling and storage. Unlike endoscopes, only the probe itself is disinfected.
  • When not in use, hang probes vertically to aid drying.
  • Keep disinfected probes away from dirty probes to avoid cross contamination.
  • Do not use the transducer shipping case for storage.
  • Per Philips’ guidelines, do not bend the flexible shaft of a TEE probe into a circle with a diameter of less than 0.30 m (1 ft).
  • Avoid storing transducers in direct sunlight or in areas of extreme temperatures.
  • The ideal probe storage system should incorporate a fan and HEPA filtered air that aids both in the drying process and provides positive pressure within a cabinet.

CIVCO Medical Solutions offers ultrasound storage cabinets: one cabinet is designed to safely store up to six  endovaginal, endorectal and/or general purpose probes and the second storage cabinet safely stores up to three TEE probes.

So, have you figured out what was objectionable with the ultrasound manager’s storage system? Remember, TJC’s guidelines are to store probes in a manner that will protect them from damage or contamination…hanging vertically in a cabinet and storing in a clean environment. This system does not meet that guideline because:

  • If there is any moisture on the probes, condensation can occur inside the plastic bags and microbial growth could occur.
  • A porous surface, like wood, holds moisture and dirt and would promote microbial growth and mold.
  • Not obvious from the photo, but the probe holder system was located in a high traffic area, exposing probes to potential damage or cross-contamination.