Inside every CT system is an X-ray tube that is vital to its operation. X-ray tubes are a reliable and cost-effective way of producing X-rays for various healthcare applications. Likewise, X-ray tubes can provide many years of service when properly operated and maintained. But without the proper care, you may drastically shorten the X-ray tube's lifespan. In this article, we will discuss the best ways to maintain an X-ray tube to prolong its lifespan.
What’s the Lifespan of X-Ray Tubes?
There are a variety of factors that determine the lifespan of an X-ray tube. Purchasing an X-ray tube from a reputable and reliable brand will help ensure the chosen one is of the highest quality. Additionally, each brand may produce subtle differences that can impact its lifespan.
The average lifespan of X-ray tubes ranges from system to system. X-ray tubes for benchtop systems typically last the entire lifetime of the system. For floor-standing systems, X-ray tubes usually last between 3 and 7 years. Another way to assess lifespan is by predicting the timeframe the tube will last based on the MHU. Generally, a 7 MHU tube will last over 150 million mAs, while a 4 MHU tube will last 70-100 million mAs. This is the most precise way to determine the lifetime of an X-ray tube because it measures exactly how many examinations the tube has completed. It will accurately estimate how much life an X-ray tube has in it.
How To Prolong Your X-Ray Tubes Lifespan?
X-ray tubes will last for quite a long time if maintained properly by their X-ray technicians. Below are five essential practices that X-ray tube operators can implement to extend the life of CT system X-ray tubes.
1. Properly Preparing Machine Before Use
Properly caring for and preparing the machine before use is a straightforward step every CT owner can take to prolong the X-ray tube's life. Each manufacturer has specific guidelines, but we recommend warming the X-ray tube before use, as it may prevent thermal shock damage. More importantly, warming the X-ray tube is crucial if it hasn't seen use in the past 2 hours. Several exposures are taken to warm up the X-ray tube, with 30 seconds to a minute between them. The time between exposures and the number of exposures may also vary based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.
2. Properly Operating Rotator
Correctly operating the rotator can reduce heat build-up generated during the stopping and starting process. Perform this step by observing the length of time before the rotor brake cycle begins and avoiding long gaps between spot films. We generally suggest having a 30-40 second break after the rotor stops, but this can vary based on the CT system used. Machines with a heat exchanger are less susceptible to heating problems.
3. Monitoring Filament Boost and Current
You can lengthen the lifespan of an X-ray tube by following the minimum recommended voltage (kVp), current (mA), and exposure time for each examination. Going over these recommendations causes a high tube current, leading to the evaporation of tungsten in the filament. Lower mA stations and longer exposure times are similar methods to avoid damaging the filament. Preserving the filament will result in prolonging the life of the X-ray tube.
4. Avoid Improper Heating and Cooling
During a CT scan, a large amount of heat generates in the X-ray tube. Following the manufacturer's suggested acceptable levels of operation will avoid early focal track wear or damage, as the focal track is an integral part of the CT scanner. Indeed, pitting or damage to the focal track can derail radiation output due to electron misplacement. Remaining within the recommended heating and cooling trends of your X-ray tube will prevent severe melting and damage to the CT scanner that can occur from excessive heat transfer. Ensuring all operators are aware of the manufacturer's recommendations will prevent this issue from occurring.
5. Maintaining Proper Settings
Ensuring that the proper settings employ during each study will prevent damage to the X-ray tube and prolong its life. The most important recommendation is to put the spectrometer on standby when not used for more than a few hours. If the spectrometer won’t be in use for more than 24 hours, switching off the X-ray tube completely is crucial. Importantly, we recommend turning the water flow off within 1-2 minutes of turning off the X-ray tube completely. Turning water flow off after turning off the X-ray tube prevents water condensation from building up inside the X-ray tube - and condensation can damage the X-ray tube. Don't fear: if operators maintain these settings, they significantly reduce their chances of inflicting any damage to the X-ray tube.
How To Maintain X-Ray Tubes Correctly
There are many general recommendations for maintaining your X-ray tube correctly, and we'll share two below. Firstly, do not leave X-ray tubes unused for longer than six months. It's essential to perform regular preventive maintenance to keep the X-ray tube in good working order. Using and manipulating the equipment according to the manufacturer's guidelines will also help to prevent damage and the need for early replacement. Secondly, we recommend keeping your equipment in good physical shape by cleaning and maintaining the X-ray tube. Only approved disinfectants and cleaners must be used on the equipment, as unapproved products can cause discoloration or chemical seepage into the X-ray tube.
Looking To Upgrade Your X-Ray Equipment? We Can Help.
Even after following all of the tips and tricks to prolong the life of your X-ray tube, all X-ray tubes will eventually need replacement. If you are contemplating replacing your X-ray tube, Maven Imaging would happily guide you through this process. Either fill out a form directly on our website or give us a call to discuss your options. We have many available options to make purchasing your new X-ray tube a smooth and reliable process.