With all the bending, twisting and stretching that’s needed to perform an optimal scan, an imaging table is probably one of the most important pieces of equipment the Sonographer uses. With its ergonomic design and time-saving features, the table is specifically designed for the common procedures specific to the job.
But with the myriad of options and upgrades a table can include, how can you be sure you’ll purchase the right one?
In this article, we’ll focus on the benefits of an imaging table vs. a regular exam table, as well as arm you with information to make the best purchase for your department. A little research can go a long way.
To get the best value on this major purchase for your department, consider the following…
Why should I consider an imaging table over a regular exam table?
Despite an initial investment, imaging tables will save your department thousands of dollars in the long run. Ergonomic design helps to prevent Sonographer pain and injury, which reduces sick leave and the costs associated to hire temporary or full-time staff replacements. Imaging tables have also evolved over the years to address procedure-related needs, resulting in shortened exam and transition times.
The ultimate goal of an imaging table is that the Sonographer shouldn’t have to "think" about the table, it should aid in scanning procedures without any complications or frustrations. Consider the following equipment features that address both ergonomic safety issues, as well as making the procedures as streamlined as possible:
Retractable side rails
The core principle of scanning ergonomics is to get as close to the patient as possible when performing a scan. On regular exam tables, side rails typically retract along the side of the table, adding as much as 2" to the width of the top and increasing the distance between Sonographer and patient. Imaging tables allow side rails to tuck underneath, eliminating that extra distance.
Ideally, imaging tables should be height adjustable from 22-44" to accommodate the Sonographer to sit or stand for the procedure. It also allows wheel-chair bound patients, or patients requiring assistance, to easily mount the table without the use of a step stool.
Central locking system vs. individual caster locks
A central locking system allows the Sonographer to lock & unlock the table with one step. Previously, each caster was individually locked, requiring staff to walk around the table or go underneath the table to reach each caster individually. The central locking system saves time during procedures.
The smaller the caster, the more limited the mobility of the table. Most imaging tables have 5" casters (vs. the standard 2") which allow the table to move freely from one area to another (even with a large patient). This means the patient can stay on the table when being moved from the exam room to the procedure room.
Open Chassis Design
A standard table frame runs from caster to caster (making a rectangle shape under the bed), resulting in knocked ankles and feet if a Sonographer steps in too close. An open chassis design eliminates this boxy frame, allowing the Sonographer to get as close as possible to the patient.
Retractable Stirrups/Dropping Foot Board (Endovaginal Exams)
To better accommodate endovaginal exams, upgrades have been made to both the foot section and the stirrups of the imaging table. Modern imaging tables have a foot section that can be lowered via an easy one-hand operation. Easy access stirrups can be slid out from the body of the table, rather than placing/removing each time the patient was moved on and off the table.
Electric Height Control
Many modern imaging tables come with hand and foot controls that, with a flip of a switch, can activate height, Trendelenburg motions, Fowler back and auto level motions. Old styles of imaging tables used pumping or braking to make these adjustments, putting a strain on the Sonographer.
Imaging tables come with cutouts in the table/mattress to accommodate specific scans seen in a typical practice. These cutouts allow maximum access to the patient and reduce Sonographer arm extension while scanning.
As the population gets larger, the weight load of the table is an important factor to consider, as well as the width of the mattress/table.
Understanding the benefits of an imaging table over an exam table is the first step. You should do your homework to ensure you make the right decision for your facility. In addition to the table, you should consider additional things like warranties, delivery specifications, and most importantly, the company you choose to purchase from.
Before you start to look at any table, evaluate your facility’s needs by crunching some raw data. This can help you put together a realistic wish list, and separate out the "must have" from "it would be nice to have" features of a table.
What procedures do you do most often? Take a look at they types of procedures your facility is performing. We recommended taking a look at your facility’s running the numbers over a course of a year (at the very least), just to account for any erratic dips/seasonal increases. This will give you the most accurate numbers possible.
How many procedures do you do per day?
Consider the number of imaging procedures you average per day. With more procedures, it may make sense to upgrade to a better grade of table or purchase optional accessories (such as foot controls to adjust height) to reduce the time spent for each procedure, and transitioning between procedures. For lower volume departments, it may make sense to purchase a table with fewer standard features to save money.
Can I try before I buy?
Because of freight costs, combined with the expense of the table, most companies don’t offer a demo product that you can try on site. But a good company will arrange for you to see it at a location close to your vicinity. You have the freedom to see it in action and talk to Sonographers using the table. Their opinion can be trusted – they aren’t trying to sell you on the table.
As important as the table specifics are, it's a good idea to evaluate your facility to make sure the table is a good fit.
Size does matter
Be sure to measure the doorway width of the room(s) you anticipate the table to be in – will it fit? If needed on various floors of your facility, will it fit in your elevator? As obvious as these questions are, some people forget to ask and receive tables that don’t make it past the doorway to their procedure room.
Look at the layout of your room - will you have to position and reposition the table to perform certain procedures? If table movement is required, make sure you take into account of the length of the power cord – will you have to unplug/replug every time you move the table?
It’s imperitive to discuss delivery requirements before purchasing the table. Generally, if your facility doesn’t have a dock, inside delivery will be required (with an additional fee). How do you plan to get it from the truck to the department/procedure room? How will you uncrate the table?
What assembly is required after delivery?
Most tables will need some sort of assembly once delivered. Can you do the assembly yourself or should you hire someone? Can they recommend a service person in the area to do the assembly?