Keeping helium costs and temperatures down
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Keeping helium costs and temperatures down

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | November 13, 2014
From the October 2014 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

A cold magnet is a happy magnet, but there are plenty of things that can come between an MR system and that desired 4 or 10k temperature. Knowing what those things are, and how to prevent them from happening, are part of responsibly maintaining your system. A few experts weigh-in on things you can do to preserve the life of your cryogen system, as well as your bank account.

Stay informed
“The key factor to maintaining these costs is remote monitoring and proactive service support,” says Mike Ghazal, president of Zetta Medical. “With remote magnet monitoring, any problems that can affect loss of helium are continuously being monitored.” When components are out of spec, says Ghazal, alerts to both the end-user and the service company go off immediately. Utilizing remote monitoring effectively means ensuring the status reports can reach you no matter where you are, so that any necessary action can be taken without delay.

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“Make sure the system is an active monitor with real-time push technology so that you’re alerted as quickly as possible,” says Randal Walker, vice president of CT and MR, BC Technical. “It will assure you that your equipment is running properly and the power source is not interrupted.”

Keep it chill
Performing upkeep at recommended intervals, such as coldhead replacement, is a key aspect of ensuring the life and reliability of your magnet and MR scanner. “Many of my customers prefer the OEM refurbished coldheads over others,” says Wayne Scott, owner of Independent Magnet Technology. “They appear to average 36 months before needing replacement.”

The most common response we hear from industry experts is that you can sustain your chiller, water lines, and cryogenic system with regularly scheduled maintenance. “[Chiller upgrades are] the best insurance you can get,” says Charlie Lewis, vice president of MR product services, BC Technical.

Seasonal considerations
Many facilities face warmer temperatures in the summer and colder ones in the winter. “Glycol is useful for keeping chilled water from freezing in the winter, but some people make the mistake of leaving it in year-round,” says Jerry Hoover, of HVAC Service Solutions. “When glycol is left in during the summer months it may reduce the efficiency of the chiller.”

To each his own
Depending on the size of your facility, sometimes it makes sense to just let the professionals worry about magnet upkeep so you can concentrate on your patients. “I have seen many different configurations,” says Scott, “Internet, web cameras . . . some love it and others are more old-school, but have never had a crisis.” With any monitoring system, the key is to locate variations in the statistics. Fluctuations in magnet pressure, cold-head performance, or helium level all represent red flags that warrant further inspection.

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