Many is the time our service, parts, or engineering departments have been asked, “How can I know how much life is left in my OEC C-arm tube?” Considering the cost of a C-arm tube, this is a perfectly reasonable inquiry to make. Unfortunately, to put the common answer succinctly, you can’t know.
With that answer, we’ve probably managed to raise a couple of other questions. We don’t want to leave you hanging, so we’ll qualify our answer and tell you what’s to be done in light of it.
Can I Measure the Remaining Lifespan of My C-Arm Tube?
C-Arm Tube Age
When purchasing a C-arm or a replacement tube, most people ask the age of the tube. This date is useful as a general, “ballpark” reference for the use a tube has undergone, but tells you nothing definitive. Our engineers have seen 9800 tubes aged well into double digits that still function within specifications. This is due primarily to OEC’s rotating anode tube design, which improves heat dissipation and overall tube longevity versus stationary anode tubes. Logic would dictate that an older tube is more likely to fail, but there are too many other variables at play to call this a hard and fast rule.
The System “Odometer”
On the back of your C-arm, you'll notice a small window with a series of rolling
numbers like the odometer on your car. There are meters like this on other modalities as well and they indicate a number of things. In the case of OEC 9600s, and 9800s, they indicate the number of hours a system has been powered up. There's no direct connection to tube use on this meter.
The Next Best Thing
Since there is no definitive indicator for how long a C-arm tube will last, we’ll give you the next best thing: a sound contingency plan for the possibility of tube failure. Here are a few options Block Imaging and some other providers offer.
Full Service- A quality plan will include preventative maintenance (PM) that can find problems before they become irreparable and parts and labor coverage to replace your tube and other parts in the event they do fail.
PM Service - If neither of the service options above work for you, consider at least a service schedule that will have your C-arm system checked over by a trained engineer each year. Block Imaging offers "PM-Only" plans that do just that.
A “First-Call” Parts Supplier- Do a little legwork on the secondary market. If you don’t have parts coverage, it pays to know in advance who you can call to get the tube you need quickly. On top of that, used parts vendors can offer substantial savings over purchasing a brand-new tube. An OEC 9800 tube, for example, can cost around $7,000 new, while a used one can be had for $3,000 to $4,000 on exchange.
No one using a C-arm, OEC or otherwise, can know exactly when their tube's number is going to be up. Manufacture dates, past experiences, and close performance monitoring can offer insight on how a tube is doing, but there remains no way to pinpoint when a replacement will be needed. Until such a thing is developed, the best thing a facility can do is plan ahead and find parts and service providers who will be ready to assist when the time comes.
If you have more questions about C-arm tubes or an immediate C-arm parts need, we can help. Send us your request with the button below to get a quote.