One of the most important elements of your CT imaging equipment is its x-ray tube. These tubes come in a variety of makes and models but have the same shared purpose of helping to create the images you receive from CT imaging. The x-ray tube can be costly to replace, and many facilities don’t start thinking about x-ray tube maintenance until the tube requires replacement. There are several symptoms that might indicate your tube is nearing the end of its lifespan and several options when that happens.
What Is An X-Ray Tube?
The x-ray tube is the mechanical component of your CT scan machine that generates x-rays used to create the images the CT scanner produces. It uses an anode and a cathode to create x-rays and also creates heat as a byproduct. The amount of time the x-ray tube generates x-rays is referred to as “scan seconds.”
The tube consists of several components, including a viewing window made of beryllium, a rotor, an anode disc made from tungsten, and lubricating oils within. It uses these components to convert electric energy into x-rays by taking the energy from electrons and converting it into x-ray photons.
How Do I Know If My X-Ray Tube Is Going To Fail?
As your x-ray tube nears the end of its lifespan, you might notice some symptoms before the x-ray tube fails. These can include new noise from the rotor, and any kind of leakage from the tube. The anode rotor is constantly spinning during operation, so a noticeable humming sound probably indicates that the earrings inside the tube housing are wearing down.
If the tube produces an electrical arc that interrupts the scanning process, it’s probably time to replace it. The CT scanner will tolerate a small amount of arcing, but it should not interrupt the imaging process. Look for error messages in your log that may be an indication of bigger problems to come. If your tube generates an arc error and immediately shuts down, the tube likely needs to be replaced.
Inconsistencies in operating temperatures are another indicator that the tube is nearing the end of its life. CT scan equipment generates a large amount of heat and needs to remain cool during operation in order to protect the functionality of the x-ray tube and other components. An x-ray tube that fails to maintain stable operating temperature during operations is likely near failure.
What Should I Do If My Tube Has 1 Or More Of These Symptoms?
It’s important to understand and be able to recognize symptoms of failure before the x-ray tube fails, in order to prevent service interruption for your patients. If you believe your x-ray tube is nearing the end of its lifespan, you can purchase a new or used replacement. New replacement parts may be more difficult to find, as they are not always produced in mass quantities. Used and refurbished x-ray tubes can often offer many more months, or even years, of additional use in a moderate-traffic facility.