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Does My Imaging System Need Service Coverage?

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The question in the title of this article is one we are asked frequently, and one that is simply answered: Yes, your imaging equipment will have service needs and they will need to be covered somehow. The deeper question behind that first one is, "How much service coverage does my imaging equipment need?" This second question opens the door to the possibility that one size of coverage plan does not necessarily fit all across the wide variety of modalities, models, and owner/operator types in the imaging field today. Whether your appetite for risk- and your budget- have you leaning toward a full-featured plan or something on more of an "as needed" basis, it's imperative that a technical safety net be in place to catch you and your system in the event of an equipment failure.

Below, we'll rank the common modalities by how much service cost risk they carry as a way to help you gauge how much of that risk your facility may want to take on its own and how much you may want to share with a service provider through any of the coverage options on the service market.

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Of all of the imaging modalities, the most significant downtime expense risk comes with MRI. This is due primarily to the fact that several different failures can result in consumption of the liquid helium inside an MRI's cooling system. Whether a full magnet "quench" or an issue with numerous other parts, losing a large quantity of helium in one fell swoop, or just more than expected over a longer period of time, can become immensely expensive. This, in conjunction with numerous high-cost parts and coils, makes MRI the highest risk modality. 

Because of how expensive an MRI failure can become (and how fast), an MRI scanner is a good candidate for more comprehensive full service coverage. Preventative maintainence, helium, labor, parts, and coil repair are all features you'll want to have in place to cover your bases when your MRI goes down.

Interventional Labs

Digital detectors and X-ray tubes are expensive and sensitive components in the cath/angio area. If you're using a bi-plane lab, you have double the potential for an incident or failure that puts your system out of commission. Add in all the moving parts, from tables, to the gantry, to monitor booms, and all the ancillary hardware like table-side controls and workstations, and it becomes clear why interventional suites come in second place from a risk perspective.

The sheer number of high-dollar components in an interventional lab make it another good candidate for a comprehensive coverage plan.

CT Scanners

Lots of moving parts and an expensive X-ray tube (five to six figures) on most models are the key elements that drive CT service cost and associated risk. Tubes continue to reduce in cost, making CT risk management more feasible than in the past, yet CT remains a high potential service expense modality. This is especially true of multi-tube products like Siemens' Definition dual-source scanner.

Given the frequency of tube replacements (sometimes as often as every other year in a high-volume facility), a CT scanner is usually best served by a comprehensive coverage plan.

Digital Mammo

That's right, digital detectors can eat your operating budget for lunch! In fact, as pricing for digital mammo systems has declined, the ratio of detector cost to entire system cost has never been higher. Beyond the detector, the number of high cost parts is relatively low, compared to some of the other modalities on this list.

For detector reasons alone, we'd suggest covering a digital mammo system with a comprehensive coverage plan. The premium for service coverage can easily be met with a single detector replacement.


Similar to digital mammo, while there are fewer high cost replacement parts, a C-arm's image intensifier and tube do carry a high percentage cost in comparison to the total equipment value. In terms of labor and other parts, C-arm service prices are generally quite reasonable from providers with refurbishment operations and, thereby, extensive parts inventories, especially when an annual preventative maintenance visit is included as well.

Because of the high cost of image intensifiers and tubes, a facility with only a moderate risk tolerance would find a comprehensive plan to be a strong fit. A facility with a little more daring could strike their risk-cost balance with a plan covering basic preventative maintenance (Block's PM Plan) supplemented by time and materials service in the event of a breakdown.

Bone Densitometry (DEXA)

Like a C-arm, a DEXA scanner only has a couple of costly parts replacements. However, service warranties and PM visits are inexpensive for this modality- so much so that the peace of mind they provide makes a compelling case for DEXA service coverage.

Facilities of almost any risk tolerance level will find comprehensive coverage for a DEXA scanner reasonably priced, and almost completely paid for by a single major component replacement.

X-Ray and Ultrasound

The X-ray and ultrasound modalities are among the least likely to experience costly, downtime-generating failures. They have no cooling systems, fewer moving parts, and generally operate off a single computer- unlike their larger cousins in the MRI, CT, and IR suites. Moreover, many analog X-ray systems have been upgraded to digital with detector panels that carry a separate manufacturer's warranty of their own. However, X-ray and ultrasound systems are on the lower end of the cost spectrum and, while the service calls may be fewer and further between, the cost to bring one of them back up and running can be quite high in comparison to the total equipment value.

In many cases, a PM plan supplemented with time and materials service will strike a cost/risk balance that should be comfortable for X-ray and ultrasound users. If, however, you're using a "native" digital X-ray system with digital flat panels from the OEM, a comprehensive service plan may be a more comfortable way to account for the replacement risk surrounding your detector(s).

The Takeaway

Hopefully, this quick overview helps you in matching up your imaging equipment with the best service fit for you. Whether comprehensive service, time and materials, or something in between, we want to help you balance your operating expenses with your tolerance for equipment risk. If you have specific questions on equipment or service programs, our team is available to serve as a guide and help you make that determination. 

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