More bang for your buck: C-arm

March 30, 2015
by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter
Buying a used C-arm? Here’s what to look out for

The market for refurbished C-arms, which have a long lifespan, remains steady as hospital budgets are challenged. Matthew Blaustein, president of Bluestone Diagnostics, a New York-based C-arm dealer, thinks that facilities will continue to look at the used market because of the savings that can be accrued through the purchase of pre-owned systems, which run roughly 30 to 40 percent less than new C-arms. He sells many refurbished OEC 9800s and 9900s.

“The used market is pretty robust,” Blaustein says. When buying a refurbished C-arm, it’s most important to closely examine the “glassware” — the image intensifier and X-ray tube, the parts of a C-arm that are crucial to the operation of a system, and can wear out as the system ages, Blaustein says. Artifacts, which are imperfections in an image intensifier typically caused by hair or dust, can degrade the image quality and should be able to be cleaned.

“If they don’t come off, that really creates a problem,” Blaustein says. “Even though some artifacts may be negligible, some physicians may find that they detract from what they are specifically looking at.” Also, as C-arms are moved around quite a bit, the image intensifier casing can get dented, which can possibly signify excessive or careless use.

Check cables, particularly the high-voltage cable that sends power to the C-arm, to make sure the casings aren’t torn, which could cause safety and power issues. Torn cables require replacement as opposed to repair, and a high-voltage cable for an OEC 9800 runs around $3,000, Blaustein says.

Mark Ardoin, the owner of Omni Imaging Service, says that when he rebuilds C-arms, aside from checking for high voltage cable problems, he makes sure that the cable ties are cut just inside the C and also at the electronics cabinet, which prevents breaks in the cables due to stress.

Ardoin also checks the output plug connectivity of the C-arm. Connectivity issues can cause voltage fluctuations and multiple errors in the C-arm. “Careful inspection prior to purchasing is a must for an older unit,” Ardoin says.

Richard Stock, president of Radiological Imaging Services, advises facilities to check the ages of both the image intensifier and the X-ray tube. If the system is controlled by software, check that the software is up to date and find out whether the manufacturer will make software upgrades available for the system and if they will support the current system that the software is on, Stock says. Stock also advises purchasers to check the error log, if there is the ability to do so.

Most importantly, make sure the company you’re buying from knows the equipment inside and out, Stock says. Customers should make sure to get a comprehensive service contract to cover their C-arms, Blaustein says, and should remain vigilant that sellers strictly fulfill these service agreements. Leon Gugel, president of Metropolis International, notes that Carms that are well maintained and regularly serviced can last 20 years.

“If one is going to buy a used C-arm, getting the system fully refurbished to bring it back up to full OEM specifications will take care of any and all headaches that usually accompany these systems otherwise,” Gugel says, “and, in the end, bring profitability to the practice and increased patient care with respect for a doctor whose system does not break down.”

To maximize the life of your refurbished unit, Jae Perez-Kim, a C-arm sales specialist with Complete Medical Services, advises starting the unit 20 to 30 minutes before use to warm it up. You should also make sure you backup all data to another PC or hard drive for safekeeping and use a power conditioner to provide constant power supply to the unit.