Signs a Siemens CT System Could Fail and How to Avoid Downtime

Posted November 07, 2019 by Kevin Brinkman

There are some things that break down and you can tell it’s about to happen. For example, you know what it’s like when you’re coming down with a cold, and you might notice your car’s engine making strange noised before it bites the dust. But, how about medical imaging equipment? Are there indications that service is needed before the situation gets serious?

Computed tomography (CT) systems are a vital piece of equipment in any medical imaging department and imaging engineers will be called upon when there are signs of trouble. They’ll be asked to diagnose and fix the problem as quickly as possible to reduce downtime.

There are several warning signs that engineers and other members of the medical imaging department can watch for to be better prepared and avoid situations that prevent a healthcare facility from serving patients.

Joe Sam is an experienced imaging engineer who spent 15 years working in the field and now provides support and training at Technical Prospects. He gave us some insights into the signs of possible Siemens CT system parts failures.

Persistent Warnings and Errors

“If you start seeing warning messages and are getting errors more frequently, it’s a sign that the CT system could fail soon,” says Sam.

Field service engineers (FSEs) doing regular site visits can go back several months in the event log and evaluate if occurrences of warnings and errors are increasing. The types of errors and messages in the log will be an indicator of what part of the CT system might soon cause it to fail and will give imaging engineers an idea of where to start troubleshooting.

It’s also important for engineers to communicate with site managers and those who are actually using the equipment regularly.

“Let’s say the technologist starts to scan a patient and the scan aborts,” Joe explains. “It’s a sign there’s a problem with something in the X-ray system, either the tube, the generator, or one of the boards.”

Computer problems and associated errors are another key warning sign.

“If the database is starting to flake out, or the IRS [image reconstruction system] computer is starting to go bad, you’ll start having fatal reconstruction errors at the console.”

Sounds of Trouble with the Tube

The X-ray tube in a Siemens CT scanner is the most important and most expensive part in the system. Depending on usage, tubes will need to be replaced every few years. There usually aren’t visual signs that an X-ray tube is wearing out, but there are often tell-tale sounds that both engineers and technologists should be listening for.

“When the anode rotates, you’ll hear what sounds like a scraping or humming,” Sam says. “Also, if the scan is done and you can still hear the anode spinning, that’s another sign there’s an issue with X-ray tube’s housing.”

When it comes time to order replacement X-ray tubes, Technical Prospects offers new and used parts as well as a CT Install Kit. Get some CT tube installation tips, and learn about our new X-ray tubes for Siemens medical imaging systems below.

CT System Sliprings and Brushes

“The most common failure on a CT system is obviously the tube,” says Sam. “But, the carbon brushes for the slipring will also cause problems if they’re not replaced when they should be.”

Sam says worn out carbon brushes will negatively impact image quality, or the system could abort the scan because it is arcing or experiencing other issues. It’s important to closely inspect the slipring and carbon brushes.

Watch the video below for tips on inspecting and replacing Siemens CT brushes.

General System Operation

Smaller issues could also indicate that a CT system needs an imaging engineer’s attention. For example, if there’s a change in the frequency of cooling delays, it could mean the system is overheating because there are problems that need to be addressed.

Sam says even things that seem insignificant could eventually lead to an inoperable CT system.

“If there are any issues, even with movement of the table, it may seem minor at the time but it could be a problem with a motor,” he explains. “And if that part fails, it will lead to downtime and the inability to scan patients.”

Preventing CT System Failure

In addition to being vigilant about the common warning signs above, imaging engineers and medical imaging directors can take steps to lessen the likelihood of CT failure and downtime.

The condition, size, and environment of the room are factors that should be closely considered and monitored.

“If the room is an inadequate size for the CT system, you won’t have good airflow,” says Sam. “If the room isn’t properly maintained and cleaned, dust and contaminants will get inside the equipment and lead to problems. Older CT scanners have dehumidifiers built in but newer models do not. So, the HVAC settings in the room should be set appropriately.”

Of course, we cannot overstate the importance of carrying out regularly scheduled preventive maintenance on Siemens CT systems. While it can be a long and meticulous process, ensuring parts are lubricated and the system is clean will help keep the scanner keep running smoothly.

Get some insights into CT preventive maintenance with tips from an expert imaging engineer.

Getting Support for Siemens CT Systems

As one of the highly-qualified imaging engineers you’ll reach if you call our free support line (877-604-6583), Joe Sam has fielded all sorts of questions and helped to troubleshoot many different problems involving a wide variety of Siemens CT models.

“Many of the imaging engineers who call Technical Prospects for support have plenty of experience, but they haven’t worked on a specific Siemens CT system,” he says. “So, they’ll call us to get an idea of where to look in the event log, where to start troubleshooting in a certain area, or to help them understand what component is what.”

Whether you need Siemens replacement parts, hands-on medical imaging training, or a little trustworthy guidance, people like Joe are standing by to back you up at all times.

“Everyone needs support at some point, and sometimes you just need some extra advice,” he says. “I’ll have veteran engineers call me and say, ‘Joe, I’ve got this problem and I just want to bounce it off you and see what you think about it.’”

No matter your experience, no matter the question, and no matter if you’ve ordered parts from us in the past or not, Technical Prospects is there for imaging engineers in the moment of truth.