por Carol Ko
, Staff Writer | September 12, 2013
From the September 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
An ode to anode
While anode end grounded X-ray tube technology has been around for over a decade, the widespread adoption of anode grounded tubes adapted for CT machines (manufactured by Varian) is a relatively recent development that promises to improve the modality’s efficiency and power.
Traditional X-ray tubes split the voltage between the cathode and anode to accelerate the electrons needed to create X-rays. With anode end grounded tubes, however, the voltage is directed at the cathode side of the tube only.
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This design eliminates the risk of electrical discharge between the anode and the tube housing, meaning that the housing and the anode can be built closer together, helping the tube cool more efficiently and boosting its life expectancy. It delivers twice the continuous watts of power in a smaller, lighter package, resulting in faster, higher-quality CT scans, according to information published on Varian’s website.
“It’s proven to be the superior technology for systems requiring high volume and high throughput imaging,” says Hurlock. And he doesn’t see the tube’s takeover stopping with CT. “Soon, new modalities will come to market that leverage the increased power in a smaller size package that AEG tubes provide,” he adds.
“Overall, the size of the tube is getting smaller and smaller,” says Richard Harris, senior X-ray tube specialist at Oxford Instruments Service. He points out that the technology also has another advantage: by using only one high voltage cable, it does away with the internal wiring responsible for many of the causes of failure in the traditional bipolar X-ray tube.
But it may be a while before these tubes take over completely. “We’ve got so many systems out there that still require bipolar tubes. It might take another 10 years to weed out bipolar products altogether,” says Harris.
If it ain’t broke…
In the near future, the forecast for the X-ray market looks positive. Though there’s always talk of other modalities such as ultrasound or MRI taking over X-ray one day, that doesn’t seem to be the case anytime soon.
“If you’ve got a broken arm or hand, conventional X-ray is all you need — the cost factor of MRI is too much,” says Imaging Affiliate’s Pardue.
Experts agree that the biggest short-term obstacle to purchases of capital equipment and adoption of new technologies remains the uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act. “Ultimately, the technologies that will grow are the most efficient technologies that provide high definition images at a lower incremental cost,” says Varian’s Hurlock.