Age of imaging equipment in Europe is a cause of increasing concern

March 06, 2019
by Thomas Dworetzky, Contributing Reporter
The aging of the European installed base of medical imaging equipment needs to be addressed, new data from the European Coordination Committee of the Radiological, Electromedical and Healthcare IT industry (COCIR) presented at the European Congress of Radiology (ECR) 2019 has revealed.

The COCIR looked at the state of CT, MR, and X-ray angiography / interventional and PET equipment in the EU.

The organization found that about 20 percent are over a decade old.

“This makes them challenging to be properly maintained and repaired and – more worryingly – suboptimal for conducting many modern procedures,” COCIR reported.

The aging units include about 2,900 CT units, 2,100 MR units, 1,800 units for X-ray angiography / interventional, and 220 PET units that are 10 years or older.

The findings come on the fifth anniversary of the creation of EuroSafe Imaging, of which COCIR is a partner.

“COCIR fully supports EuroSafe’s aims and work; indeed, our industries are committed to continuously improving the safety and performance of their innovative technologies,” said COCIR Secretary General Nicole Denjoy in a statement, noting that, “this is why this worrying trend on aging equipment is an ongoing concern, and why we felt it important to use this flagship event to share these critical data.”

Stressing that COCIR hoped that replacing obsolete equipment would be supported by governments and EU policymakers, she added that, “in the last ten years, the number of countries meeting the COCIR ‘Golden Rules’ has not significantly improved; indeed, the situation for CT and MR has deteriorated even further.”

The “Golden Rules” are:
1 - At least 60 percent of the installed equipment base should be less than five years old.
2 - No more than 30 percent of the installed equipment base should be between six to ten years old.
3 - No more than 10 percent of the age profile should be more than ten years old.

This is far from the first time COCIR has warned of aging equipment. In 2016, it called replacement of the units “essential and long overdue.”

At that time Denjoy observed in a statement that, “A quarter of the European CT installed base cannot be upgraded with the most important dose-saving technology advances, CT Dose Modulation and CT Reiterative reconstruction algorithm technologies.”

Of course, replacement of aging gear also raises the question of what to do with old machines. One approach was highlighted recently by GE Healthcare in an article on its site on its refurbishing, reusing and recycling efforts.

“When a hospital or clinic decides to part ways with a piece of imaging equipment, GE Healthcare may offer to buy it back through its GoldSeal program,” it noted, pointing out that MR, CT, and PET/CT equipment can be bought from that program with a savings of about 20 percent.

In addition, the company noted that in cases in which CT machines are retired, as many as 53 pieces can be salvaged.

And in a January, Dr. Ken Hable, director of engineering and training at Technical Prospects, noted in an editorial for HCB News that when your system hits its end of life, that doesn't mean the end of its usefulness. He wrote that, “EOL does not mean the end for medical imaging equipment. In many cases, these systems can still be a valuable part of your install base, especially if you have a strategy for servicing and repairing the equipment without the manufacturer’s involvement.”

He advised that wanting the newest equipment doesn't mean ditching the older machines, if you have them properly maintained.

“A slightly older piece of radiography or fluoroscopy equipment, for example, could serve as an adequate backup for when your main system has an issue requiring service,” he noted, adding, “this ensures you can continue to scan patients uninterrupted, and you won’t lose them to another clinic.”