MR Instruments' DuoFLEX

How to take the best care of your MR coils

October 05, 2016
by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter
In an ideal situation, flexible coils can last from six to 10 years and rigid coils can last even longer than that. But that’s only if they have been handled properly and not over-flexed, flexed in the wrong way or repeatedly dropped. HealthCare Business News spoke with MR coil repair companies about the main reasons coils break, how that can be prevented and options for repairing a broken coil. “They are electronic assemblies and when they get dropped or the cables get kinked [when they are handled poorly by the technologist] things break,” says Dr. Randall Jones, president and CEO of ScanMed.

Why do coils break?
One of the most common reasons coils break is because they are not handled properly. When the technologist doesn’t take care of the coils, many things can go wrong. “Flex coils have the most chance of failure when you consistently wrap the coil around different patients of different sizes,” says Randall Walker, vice president of CT and MR at BC Technical. “Over time the electrical and electronic connections within that flexible material break.”

Rigid coils tend to break at the connector point because technologists are not always careful when unplugging them. If they yank on the wrong part of the cord, it will detach either on the coil or connector side. Another reason coils break is because some are used too frequently, according to Wes Solmos, MR coils account manager at For example, a facility might have eight coils, but use only three of them most of the time.

What can you do about it?
“Most damage occurs from improper coil use and storage,” says Solmos. “Ensure that your coils are handled carefully. Pushing, bending or hanging improperly will lead to stress and coil component failure.” It’s important to have adequate shelving for your coils. A flexible body coil can’t be jammed into an 18-by-18-foot cubby that’s intended for a rigid head coil, says Walker. Also, the coils should never be stacked on top of each other. That’s something that commonly happens in an MR suite because space is limited.

“There are typically more coils purchased than there is cabinet space, so things are thrown on top of each other,” says ScanMed’s Jones. Facilities should take advantage of any tune-ups or preventive maintenance inspections that the manufacturer or third-party repair company offers, says George Quisno, sales and new business development manager at NeoCoil.

Many failures happen because customers poorly package the coil before it is sent to the repair facility. If a coil is put into a box without adequate padding on all six sides, it will be slammed against the box repetitively throughout the shipping process, which will cause the coil’s cable to kink and then fail. “It’s a little surprising sometimes to see a $25,000 to $70,000 product thrown into a box with virtually no padding,” says Jones. “We have, literally, opened these boxes before and seen broken pieces lying in the box.”

Repair versus replace
It can often be difficult to determine if a coil should be repaired or replaced. In general, it depends on the particular failure. “In many cases, failures to components like connectors, or a crack in a housing, can easily be replaced to make the coil operable again,” says Dan Chirayath, general manager of coils at GE Healthcare. “More extensive repairs can also often be completed.”

GE field service engineers are trained on how to decide if a coil is damaged and needs to be repaired or replaced. If the coil has been dropped and the outer plastic housing cracks or if part of the cable assembly shows damage, the coil should be evaluated to determine if repair is necessary.

BC Technical’s Walker recommends having a backup coil for the one you use the most, so that your facility doesn’t experience much downtime. You could instead purchase a loaner coil, which is something that many repair companies offer. For an additional fee, ScanMed provides same-day service on almost every one of the 800 models of coils on the market. If they receive the coil early in the morning, they can guarantee that the coil will be back on the delivery truck the same day.

“That has changed the paradigm in a lot of hospitals because now you don’t necessarily need to have that loaner shipped to you first,” says Jones. “In the end, it’s almost no more out-of-service time in that scenario than it is waiting for a loaner coil to get there.”