An RF engineer replaces capacitors on
a head coil. (courtesy

Tips for extending the life of your coils

September 11, 2018
by Lisa Chamoff, Contributing Reporter
In today’s value-based care environment, it is more important than ever to keep high-value equipment in good shape. And while a quenched magnet is a big MR emergency, broken coils can also set a radiology department back.

Here are several tips from coil manufacturers and independent service organizations to ensure your coils have a long, useful life.

Store coils properly
In its coil care guide for customers, Nicola Jones, the education coordinator for MR field support and education for Philips Healthcare, advises clinicians to store coils on a designated caddy or on shelves, making sure that any cables are loosely looped and not bent, and are not hanging from the shelf. Flat coils should also not be bent.

Clinicians should also make sure each coil has a dedicated spot and that they are not stacked on top of each other, with proper labels so they can be found and put back easily and quickly.

LeRoy Blawat, president of Resonant Diagnostics, notes that a non-skid surface is also important, and that coils should be kept off the floor, where they can more easily get dirty and damaged.

Inspect before using
Jason Brownley, principal MRI coil technician at Innovatus Imaging, recommends inspecting the coil before each use, examining the housings, each cable, the connector and any accessory.

“If the coil appears damaged in any way, discontinue use and contact your service provider,” Brownley says. “Exterior physical damage may be an indicator, or the root cause, of an underlying intermittent or hard electronic failure.”

Transport coils properly
According to Jones of Philips, heavy coils and two-part coils, such as head coils, should always be lifted from the bottom. Coils should never be carried by the cable.

Brownley of Innovatus recommends transporting the coil by gripping it and supporting it from the sides and using a cart to transport coils between rooms. Never carry flex coils from the flexible portion.

“Flex coils should always be cradled from the bottom, gripped at the center housing or carried by the designated handle,” Brownley says.

Handling flex coils properly
Clinicians should move the flex coil in the correct direction, without flexing past the OEM-designed degree of flex, and not using thru-holes as handles, says Wes Solmos, account manager at

How to use coils with patients
Patients should never touch the contact parts of coils that separate, such as knee coils, and the technologist should connect the coil to the scanner table after positioning the patient, according to Jones. When scanning with a flex coil, Brownley advises not to adjust the position of a patient by using the coil.

Coils should be closed before they are connected to the system, and then disconnected before they are opened again, Jones notes.

Blawat also stresses that clinicians should never lower the table when coils are plugged in.

How to connect and disconnect coils
Brownley notes that clinicians should remove the anterior portion of the coil by pulling straight up.

“If the anterior is removed at an angle, the connections between the anterior and posterior sections could become damaged,” Brownley says. “The same is true when reinstalling the anterior section. If the components are assembled using the incorrect angle, it’s possible to cause damage to the physical and electronic connections between the sections.”

Be cautious when attempting repairs
Brownley notes that opening the housing on an MR coil may increase the risk of electrostatic discharge to the internal components, possibly causing unseen latent damage and electronic failures.

“Employees and patients are put at risk even if repairs are attempted in approved ESD areas,” Brownley says. “If the coil is reassembled without properly routing and relocating internal components and assemblies, image quality problems may arise.”

Attempting a repair without using the proper testing equipment can potentially cause patient damage, including burns.

If there are exposed wires, do not hide it with tape, warns Solmos of

“This needs to be addressed by our repair lab immediately,” Solmos says. “Even though there may not be any immediate electrical performance issues, exposed wires will lead to larger problems and also present a safety hazard for the patient.”

Solmos advises clinicians to take the extra time to package coils securely before they are shipped to a facility for repairs.

“Make sure to leave 2 to 3 inches of packaging material between the coil and the inner wall of the box,” Solmos says. “Do not wrap the cables too tightly, as this may lead to damage of the strain relief.”

Solmos notes that replacement pads keep patients comfortable and also help with the longevity of your MR coil.

How to clean coils
According to Brownley, clean the coil with a cloth that has been dampened in a solution of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent tap water, or 30 percent isopropyl alcohol and 70 percent tap water.

“Exposing the housing of a coil to unapproved chemical disinfectants may cause physical damage which may not be covered under the OEM warranty or contract,” Brownley says.

Coils should never be submerged and cleaning agents should never be sprayed or poured directly onto coil. Coils should always be detached from the scanner before they are cleaned. After cleaning, wait until the coil has completely dried before reattaching the connector.

Blawat notes that coils can be cleared of debris in between regular cleanings by using a can of compressed air.

“But make sure the coil is outside of the scan room,” Blawat says.