At the heart of every CT scanner is its X-ray tube. More so than any other component, keeping careful tabs on the functioning of the CT tube can mitigate the cost of owning and operating a CT system. Unfortunately, some people only start thinking about the remaining lifespan of their X-ray tube after the system has been installed and in use for several years. This can mean that some damage has already been done.
On the bright side, there are early warning signs that CT users can watch out for to identify when CT tube help is needed. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Loud Tube Bearing Noise
During a scan, the anode of the tube is constantly spinning. If the bearings inside the tube housing are wearing out they’ll become noisy and the user will hear a continuous “humming” sound.
Arcing That Interrupts Scanning
A certain small amount of electrical arcing in the tube is actually tolerated by your CT scanner. If the arcing is getting out of control, however, it may interrupt you mid-scan. Be on the lookout for arc-related error messages in your log. They're relatively easy to clear and won't put your system hard down (at first), but they could be a precursor to more frequent interruptions.
Immediate Shutdown With Arc Error
The immediacy of this error lets you know that arcing is happening consistently in your tube. This is more likely to happen with a cold tube that has not been run through its warm-up sequence, so be sure to allow time for warm-up at the beginning of each scanning schedule.
Change In Tube Cooling Delay Frequency
If your scanner is reaching the upper limits of its operating temperature, the system will stop between techniques to give the tube a break. If the breaks are getting consistently longer, you may have a problem.
What You Should Do
If you are experiencing any of these warning signs, it is a good idea to call your imaging equipment service organization and have your CT scanner checked out. These issues may be in their beginning stages and can be circumvented before too much damage is done to the tube. Other times, the news is not so good and the best a field engineer can do is clear error messages and run preventative measures to keep your existing tube up and running a tiny bit longer while you search for a new solution.
If you find that you need a replacement CT tube fast, we can help! We have a wide inventory of CT tubes in stock. Even better- we can help you save on tube replacement costs with reprocessed or reloaded tubes. You can submit your CT tube price request online or give us a call at any time.
You can also take a look at these other articles to get an idea of average lifespan and replacement cost for X-ray tubes from popular CT scanner product lines:
Paul Crawford is the Vice President of Equipment Solutions at Block Imaging. Paul connects with healthcare facilities across the world to offer CT solutions and manages the wholesale sales team. When Paul is not helping customers with their CT needs, he enjoys spending time with his family, watching MSU sports, and CrossFit.