It’s a busy shift and you need to perform a bedside ultrasound on a patient’s belly to rule out cholecystitis, when you realize that the ultrasound gel bottle is nearly empty. No matter how many times you vigorously shake the bottle, it’s impossible to get the viscous gel out. In a pinch, you could use hand sanitizer, sterile lubricant, or even water as a substitute for gel. Or you could run to the storage room on the other side of the busy department to grab a new bottle. Or…

Trick of the Trade

Use centrifugal force to move the gel to the top of the bottle!

trick ultrasound bottle gel out

  • Turn the bottle upside down so the cap is facing the ground.
  • Place the bottle into a (fresh) patient’s sock or transducer cover. Alternatively, you can use a plastic bag or ortho tubular stockinette.
  • Firmly holding the bag, and spin the bag for a few seconds in a circular motion, almost like you were throwing a grappling hook.
  • The centrifugal motion will generate an outward force pushing all of the viscous gel to the bottle cap!
  • Once you’ve used the gel, store the bottle cap-side down so you don’t have to do this again.

This trick is useful in a pinch, because it makes use of the entire gel bottle and promotes an eco-friendly use of ED resources.

Tip: Just don’t let go while you swing, lest you turn that patient with the belly pain into a trauma activation from a bottle to the face.

Interest in other tricks?

Read more articles in the Tricks of the Trade series.

Andrew J. Park, MD

Andrew J. Park, MD

Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center