If you can’t find a PET/CT in a mobile unit that was built that way at the factory, don’t worry! There are still PET/CT options available that adapt well from fixed locations to mobile units. But before you begin shopping around on all the units we’re about to discuss, there are some things you should figure out in advance:
1. Determine if you are going to move the system on a route, or not. If the trailer is really only to help with space considerations within your building, there are more options. If you intend for the PET/CT to be truly mobile, you are limited to air-cooled systems. Chillers contribute highly to the downtime rate of water-cooled CTs, so adding a jostling ride with starts and stops just compounds an inherent problem.
2. How many slices do you NEED? If you really need 16, then you have two choices – the Philips GXL and the GE Discovery ST. Siemens’ 16-slice Biograph uses a water-cooled Sensation 16 CT and is not recommended for mobile routes. We are aware of Biograph 16s that have been put into trailers, but only one of these is (allegedly) moving on a route, providing little to no evidence that it will work well over extended time periods. There are some newer systems that use an air-cooled Emotion 16, but they have not hit the secondary market and are not likely to for a while.
3. What’s on the market? Aside from the limited 16-slice choices, here’s a quick rundown on the 8-slice and under category from the “Big Three” manufacturers:
The most popular of these is GE’s Discovery line; partly due to the fact that the ST series is built mobile-ready from the factory. This means that it is natively designed to go into a trailer and weather the road. The other manufacturers’ systems need to be “hardened”, or adapted to withstand the rigors of the route travel.
For the purposes of mobile application, it is important to realize that the Discovery LS and the Discovery ST are two totally different animals. The Discovery LS is not mobile-ready and GE never made it to be so. We don’t recommend using the LS series in trailers. See our article on the Discovery Series for more information.
Discovery ST4 – Lower priced and, in spite of its lower slices, still very useful. A reliable workhorse.
Discovery ST8 – Like its 4-slice counterpart, very well regarded – but still not a 16.
Discovery ST16 – Probably the most requested mobile we have. Very difficult to obtain.
The Siemens 6 is a favorite of many mobile providers. It features high-resolution detectors and is based on the reliable Emotion CT.
The Siemens Duo is a highly utilitarian option. Like GE’s Discovery ST4 it is a workhorse. On the maintenance side, its replacement parts are easily obtainable and reliable.
These have the smallest market presence, but many facilities we’ve talked to that have used them, love them. They enjoy great popularity in Europe. If you want one in the US, it may have to be imported from Europe (fortunately, this is not as big a problem as it might seem). The major differences between European and American units are the power supply and Department of Transportation requirements for mobile installation. Of the two differences, the latter requires the most extensive remodeling, but if your vendor has a project management team, they can handle that for you.
Gemini Power 16 – One of the earliest mobile 16s. Not many of them still around as the GXL is considered to be a better option.
Gemini GXL 6 – Not many of these made either as the GXL 16 quickly became the flagship mobile from Philips.
Gemini GXL 16 – If you are looking for a 16 and need a budget price, this may be a good option.
4. What do you intend to do about service? Given the rigors of the road, service coverage on your mobile PET/CT couldn’t be more highly recommended. One thing to remember, however, is that if you build your own mobile PET/CT, the OEMs will not take it under a service contract. Fortunately, there are a number of good 3rd-party service organizations (including Block Imaging) that will take it under a service contract.
Adapting a traditionally stationary machine for movement between locations is always a delicate matter but, by knowing your needs and what the market can do for you, you can navigate the pratfalls and get a PET/CT that is both durable and diagnostically reliable. If you need help building your knowledge, our sales and service teams are available to discuss your options. Don’t get in the trailer with anything but the best!