By Ted Lucidi, CBET
As an imaging service engineer in the hospital setting for many years of my career, I know the search for reliable methodologies, partners, and practices for extending the life of medical devices is a constant and endless pursuit. I also know that in many cases, one of the best solutions is just down the hall: The people that manage your imaging department and those that actually use the equipment. Following are 4-Best Practices For Maximizing MRI Coil Longevity
Here are some simple tips to help you help your teammates, from technologists to clinicians, lower your repair frequency and costs, while maintaining uptime:
Partnering With End-Users
The majority of coils sent in to Innovatus Imaging for repair possess some-level of mechanical damage, which often has resulted in single or multi-point electronic failures. One of the most effective ways to increase longevity is ensure that best-practices and OEM guidelines are being followed. Ben Franklin said it best, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. We recommend that service engineers perform, what’s called, a “Care & Handling Assessment”. Start with partnering with the department/site manager and explain the purposes and goals…reducing failures and costs and increasing uptime. Assess when and how often the coils are visually inspected by the technologists, how they are stored, transported and cleaned. Even go as far as to observe how the coil’s cables are routed during set-up and how the patient is positioned AND re-positioned. This can be easily performed without anyone’s notice during routine visits to the department. Follow-up with manager by requesting 15-30 minutes during a routine department meeting to review findings. Spend time discussing best practices and both provide, as well as solicit, ideas for improvement to reduce damage.
Addressing Wear/Tear And Electronic Failures
Even if best practices are employed, wear and tear, random electronic failures and unavoidable accidents will occur over time. The key to longevity, in these instances, is to select a repair provider who addresses coil failures holistically. For sustainable repairs, the entire coil (both mechanically and electronically) should be assessed versus a quick-fix of a single point of failure. Over time, all cables will breakdown and become intermittent. Be sure that your provider REPLACES worn and damaged cables, versus splicing or repairing them. It will result in like-new performance and offer the longevity of a new coil. Consider the slogan, “pay me now or pay me later”. Better to address all of the failures at one time versus sending a product in for repair time and time again.
Disassembly Or In-House Repairs
Although imaging service engineers are well-qualified and the HTM community is based on the self-service model, DO NOT attempt to repair an MRI coil without the use of proper test equipment and proper repair and testing procedures. Improper repairs and/or repair attempts have the potential to induce patient damage, including burns. Even if your confidence and experience levels are high, DO NOT attempt to repair an MRI coil without proper ESD (electrostatic discharge) protection. Opening the housing, often-times, breaks the electromagnetic shielding and may permit the risk of ESD to the internal components and unseen damage and failures may occur. Employees and patients can be put at risk even if repairs are attempted in approved ESD areas.
It can’t be stressed enough that partnering with a qualified repair provider is another key to longevity and sustainable performance. Perform a thorough analysis or vendor qualification of potential MRI coil repair providers as the 3rd-party repair industry is currently unregulated and there is no standard of quality amongst providers. Assess if the provider is ISO 13485:2016 certified SPECIFICALLY for MRI coil repair. Insist on a copy of the provider’s current certificate and ensure that the scope of service includes “MRI coil repair” and not just “MRI service”. Assess the experience of the provider…their history, capabilities, approach to repair (holistic or quick-fix), loaner availability, testing processes, warranty periods and warranty rates. Cost should be one of the lower-ranked qualifiers. Consider Gabriel Bell’s 15th century quote, “You get what you pay for”.