From the September 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Exercising due diligence and common sense goes a long way:
- Take out a service contract on your chiller
If you plan to keep an MRI cold, you need to have the cold-head and compressor running. But the chiller is always the biggest obstacle when trying to meet this goal. Compressors are cooled by cold water, supplied by a chiller. If the chiller is not working, the compressor and cold-head will shut down. Experts advise customers to take out service contracts on their chillers and make sure they are inspected two to three times per year.
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- Remote monitoring
When it comes to cold-head/chiller systems, remote monitoring is a good idea to ensure an MRI system is properly operating. Overnight and weekend outages cause the largest helium losses. When remotely monitored, the MRI owner can receive an email, text or voice message warning if the cold-head/chiller is not working. The customer can then call their service provider for tech support to get system operation restored before losing valuable helium.
- Preventive maintenance
Customers should do preventive maintenance even if the cold-head is working. If the cold-head shuts off, customers are going to lose liquid helium. Because of the shortages, it is difficult to replace helium and get service at the same time it shuts off. It typically takes two to three days for someone to respond, and in the meantime, the end user is seeing that loss of liquid helium and money as the cost to get back up and running rises with each liter of helium lost.
- Be wary of fault
Experts frequently see machines where the cold head hasn’t been running for a couple days, either through an electrical, mechanical, or technician error, and the site isn’t even aware of this outage. In these cases, the machine can still scan; patients are still being put through; yet before the end user knows it, the system has lost 20 percent of its helium.
- If you have a concern, get it checked
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you suspect your machine has a problem, get it checked before a minor problem becomes major.
Tips courtesy of: Marc Fessler, partner at Independence Cryogenic Engineering; Wayne Scott, vice president of magnet operations at Medallion Magnet Services; David Baldwin, vice president of Cool Pair Plus; and Ellen Joyner, a product manager for the service portion of Siemens Healthcare’s MR business unit.