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This invention, a group of related cases, presents an ergonomic, handheld, force-controlled ultrasound probe for medical imaging applications.  The device, which consists of an ultrasound probe mounted to a backlash-free ball screw actuator and driven by a compact servo motor, maintains a prescribed contact force between the ultrasound probe and the patient’s body.  A control system, which combines both a position controller and a force controller, enables ergonomic operation by keeping the actuator centered within its range of motion and permits the repeated making and breaking of probe-patient contact.  By controlling ultrasound probe contact force and consequently the amount of tissue deformation, the system enhances the repeatability, usability, and diagnostic capabilities of ultrasound imaging.