Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) ultrasound probes are a wonder of modern technology; these devices allow technicians to get clear, close images of the heart to assist those struggling with heart disease and myriad other ailments. TEE probes are, however, notoriously delicate instruments.
According to Radiology Key, “Several thousand piezoelectric crystal elements are assembled in a matrix configuration and mounted to the distal tip of an endoscope.” This makes the tip of a TEE probe very susceptible to damage with just the slightest dings and scrapes. If a probe’s distal tip is damaged, it can lead to poor image quality, inconclusive findings, and expensive repairs or replacements. The insertion tube is also prone to damage as the flexible coating is easily scratched, leaving small gouges where bacteria can hide and develop an impregnable biofilm, putting patients at risk of a healthcare associated infection (HAI). Worse, any significant damage to the TEE probe can expose a patient to the electrical currents within the probe leading to potentially fatal electrocution.
Fortunately, even though damaging probes is easy to do, so is protecting probes from damage. Here are just five easy ways to mitigate the risk of damage to these costly and important devices:
When holding a soiled TEE ultrasound probe, the last thing you need to be doing is fumbling to preclean it using traditional methods. The more time spent handling the device, the higher the chances of damaging it. By implementing the use of a product, like TEEZyme Sponges, you can simplify the precleaning step. TEEZyme Enzymatic Sponges come saturated with an enzymatic detergent so that, when the time comes, all you have to do is open the package and swipe the sponge over the insertion tube and distal tip. Once that’s done, it can be slipped into a PullUp Bio-Barrier Sleeve and transported to be cleaned and disinfected.
When storing and transporting TEE probes, there are two extra precautions which can be taken to keep the probe from damage. There are various reasons to use a PullUp Probe Cover, but protecting the insertion tube from damage is a great one. While the probe is in storage or being transported, the PullUp sleeve can help protect the TEE probe’s shaft from minor abrasions which can result in significant consequences over time.
TDefender is another great option for TEE probe protection during storage and transportation, but its purpose is to specifically shield the distal tip from harm. As previously mentioned, the distal tip contains thousands of precisely arranged piezoelectric crystals; if that tip is banged against a wall or other surface, the risk of dislodging one or many of those crystals is high. By just slipping on a TDefender, you can greatly diminish the risk of damage to the distal tip.
During transportation to and from the procedure room is one of the most vulnerable times for TEE probes. While being toted from one room to the next in a busy medical facility, it’s common for the probe to bump against a door frame or scrape along a wall. For this reason, it is essential that ultrasound probes are not transported in cloth or plastic bags. One TEE probe manufacturer recommends using, “a rigid container with a lid and that secures the system connector in place so as not to damage the transducer head or lens.” TPorter is the ideal solution for transportation to and from the procedure room. These cases are designed to perfectly nestle a TEE ultrasound probe safely within a rugged plastic casing which will protect it from bumps and even help minimize fall damage.
TEE probe insertion tubes and tips are very prone to damage from minor scratches over time, so it’s important to protect them from even slight nicks and scrapes. One way to do this is to pay attention to your drying tool of choice. If you’ve been using paper towels, think again. TEE probe manufacturers strongly advise against the use of harsh and abrasive paper products when wiping or cleaning probes as the paper can damage the probe’s soft acoustic window located on the distal tip. Instead, use a soft, low lint cloth, like QwikDry Cloths. Ultra-smooth and irradiated to remove bacteria, QwikDry Cloths are a great alternative to paper towels and will maintain your probe’s pristine exterior.
When it comes to probe storage, it seems like there are a million methods out there, but not all are created equally. Hanging in the open air or in a PVC pipe attached to a wall in a busy corridor are methods just asking for trouble. GE recommends that the probe be stored hanging vertically in a safe location: “This may be accomplished by placing the probe in a storage cabinet with filtered air flow and/or by using a disposable storage cover placed over the probe.” In this scenario, you might cover a disinfected and thoroughly dried TEE probe with a PullUp Probe Cover and then place it within a CleanShield which will bathe the probe in HEPA-filtered air until its next use. This would protect the probe from damage and from contamination in one simple step.
Keeping probes free from harm may require a little bit of know-how and a little extra caution, but it will save patients from potential exposure to HAIs, it will save your facility’s reputation, and it will prevent you from having to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for repairs and replacements.