Find Out How To Avoid The Most Common Ways That CT Scanners Can Fail

Maintaining your expensive CT scanner and ensuring that it operates properly can help prevent potential malfunctions from occurring. Keeping your CT scanner in good condition will help ensure the safety of your patients and staff as well. If you don't properly maintain your CT scanner, it's more likely to experience issues that could render it unsafe to use and that could result in expensive repairs and lengthy downtime. The following are some of the common ways CT scanners can fail that you should be aware of.

Small Failures Are Signs of a Future Problem

If error codes begin popping up on a semi-regular basis or your system is experiencing occasional failures, have your CT scanner inspected. There's a good chance that issues such as these--even those that appear minor or those that were easily solved--are indicative of an impending problem. By addressing these issues as soon as possible, you could prevent your CT scanner from breaking down completely or from experiencing future problems that may require expensive repairs.

Not Maintaining a Proper Environment

CT scanners have many sensitive parts that can be affected by the environment surrounding it. The temperature, humidity,cleanliness of the space, and power quality can all negatively affect your CT scanner. For example, the temperature in the room should be kept between 64 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity levels should be kept between 40 and 70 percent relative, non-condensing humidity. Even the presence of dust can interfere with the proper operation of a CT scanner.

If the temperature or humidity levels exceed the recommended ranges, it can cause serious damage to many of your CT scanner's components. To maintain a proper environment and ensuring that it doesn't negatively affect your CT scanner's operation, you should not only keep the space clean, but also install a basic alarm system that will activate should the temperature or humidity levels fall below or go above the recommended range.

Problems With The Tubes

The tubes are one of the most important components of a CT scanner. They are responsible for converting electrical input power into X-rays, which means you can’t capture diagnostic images without them. Unfortunately, it's a part that will need to be replaced periodically, and they're quite expensive to replace. On average, most tubes will need to be replaced every two to three years, which means you will need to keep an eye on their condition so that you can schedule a replacement before they fail. The following are a few signs that your CT tube may need to be replaced soon:

  • Loud humming sounds - During normal operation, the anode of a CT tube will spin constantly. If you hear loud humming sounds during the scanning process, the bearings inside the tube housing may be wearing out.
  • Arc-related error messages - Your CT scanner is built to tolerate a minor amount of electrical arcing in the tube; however, if there's too much electrical arcing, it could interrupt the the scanning process. If you spot any arc-related error messages in your log, there's a good chance you can expect more frequent interruptions as a result of electrical arcing.
  • Arc error shutdown - If the CT scanner is shut down immediately as a result of an arc error, you know something is wrong with the tube. Immediate shutdowns often occur if the tube was cold and wasn't run through a proper warm-up sequence. The problem could be solved by simply allowing more time for warm-up at the beginning of every scanning schedule.
  • Change in frequency of tube cooling delays - If the CT scanner stops between techniques and those delays are getting longer and longer, it means your scanner is reaching the upper limits of its operating temperature and needs more time to cool down.

These signs indicate an issue with your CT tube that requires inspection. There's a good chance it may be time to have the tube replaced.

Improper Electrical Power

The proper electrical power is essential if you expect your CT scanner to run at its optimal levels. CT scans require a significant amount of energy to be successfully executed. If your electrical power doesn't meet the requirements of your CT scanner, it could result in damage to the system itself.

The electrical requirements for your CT scanner will vary depending on the CT's specific system requirements and power consumption. For example, the amount of electricity it needs to run properly can vary based on whether it uses a standard water/water heat exchanger or air cooled system. CT scanners using an optional water/air split cooling system have different requirements as well.

Specific power requirements, such as supply configuration, branch power, line voltage, and circuit breakers, will depend on the type of CT scanner you have. If you don't meet your CT system's electrical requirements, the risk of spikes, noise, dips, and other problems will increase significantly, thereby also increasing the risk of cumulative damage to your CT scanner. It's also worth noting that your electrical power will have to meet local and national electric codes and regulations as well.

Communication Problems Between Components

If your CT scanner is to operate successfully, its components need to communicate with one another. If there's a breakdown in communication between the system's components, it will likely render your CT scanner unresponsive.

Take for example the "fatal reconstruction error." This error occurs when the main CT control computer is unable to communicate with the image reconstruction system. Such an error can occur due to numerous reasons, including an unexpected power outage or an out-of-sequence shutdown of both components. When such an error occurs, check the system manual for troubleshooting advice. In some cases, shutting down the system and restarting it could solve the issue--but only if this is a recommended course of action. If any of the recommended solutions outlined in your manual do not get your CT system back online, have the problem inspected by an engineer. Even if you are able to solve the issue, you may want to schedule an inspection if the issue is a recurring problem.

Computer Problems:

In some cases, problems with the scanning process are a result of the computer and not the actual machine. This often results in artifacts appearing in the diagnostic images, making it difficult to determine an accurate diagnosis. For example, artifacts can occur if the detectors aren't calibrated properly. The use of inaccurate data by the computer can result in blurring or artifacts within the image as well. If you've followed recommended troubleshooting to fix any image problems you're experiencing and artifacts, blurring or other image flaws are still appearing, you may need to have your CT's computer system inspected.

Having a Service Contract

There are a number of problems that can cause CT scanner failure. If this happens, you could potentially experience serious downtime depending on the extent of the repairs required (or in the event that a replacement is needed). Fortunately, preventative maintenance can help to reduce the risk of CT failure. You should make sure that your service contract offers regularly scheduled preventative maintenance services in addition to their repair services.