Three tips to keep your linear accelerator humming

by Nancy Ryerson, Staff Writer | September 01, 2013
From the September 2013 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Linear accelerators are long lasting but dynamic. That means many facilities today work to keep their older equipment running smoothly while staying on top of software upgrades. Beyond staying on top of technology, three experts weighed in on other simple ways end users can help ensure reliable uptime.

One quick fix
“Replacing MLC (multi-leaf collimator) motors is a fairly common problem with linear accelerators,” says John Vano, president of Radiology Oncology Systems. “It’s not that expensive, but anything is expensive if your machine is down and you’re not treating patients.”

End users can even replace the MLC motors themselves. “We’ll show customers how to change MLC motors,” says Ronald Drake, vice president of service and technology support at Oncology Services International. “It’s really simple to do, and most places love to do it because instead of calling someone in, it takes five minutes to do it yourself.”

The long life of a linac
If properly maintained, linear accelerators can be on your team for quite a while. “I would say on average they last about 15 to 20 years. They can go on for longer, but that’s generally when they’re replaced,” says Vano. “In Latin America, we’ve seen machines that have been in operation for 30 years.”

Even though they’re long-lived, linacs still need updates, especially from the software side. “They change with almost every machine that comes up,” says Rick Marshall, president of Accelerator Service and Parts. “Also, make sure to keep up with tech bulletins from the manufacturer, even if you bought a refurbished system.”

The power of being proactive
One tip is to simply take a good look at your machine. “Visually you can see a lot of the issues that will be coming up,” says Drake. “See what kind of condition the batteries and cables are in. You can also change the lamps.”

“These machines should get a PM every three months,” Drake adds. “I tell my guys, if you go in for a simple problem, see if there’s anything else you notice visually. If you can catch it before it becomes a big problem, then your uptime will be good.”

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