If you own a nuclear medicine camera, you know that consistent maintenance is key to keeping the camera running in top shape.
Proper maintenance ensures that your camera provides you with the highest possible quality images for the longest amount of time. From an investment standpoint, preventative maintenance pays for itself dozens of times over because it allows you to maximize what you initially spent on the camera.
Most often, issues with gamma cameras arise over time, and consistent, comprehensive maintenance checks will ensure the optimal performance of your system.
Additionally, a valid preventative maintenance program is required to satisfy accreditation and regulatory requirements, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly or, more importantly, sacrificed as a way to reduce costs.
At Digirad, we have serviced hundreds of cameras and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here are nine tips from our team of nuclear medicine camera maintenance professionals for how to maintain your equipment.
1. Camera Maintenance Frequency
How often should you have your nuclear camera serviced? Generally, stationary systems should receive preventative maintenance twice per year, and mobile imaging systems should have a maintenance check at least three times a year. It’s also a good idea to do a full preventative maintenance service before your accreditation testing or a physics text.
2. Start with the Basics
Begin your maintenance check by starting with the basics. Do a visual inspection of the camera, run a test scan, and gauge how the camera is performing. Check that all the mechanical motions are operating smoothly and all patient protections are functional. It’s also a good idea to check all the wired connections and cables at this stage. Loose wires or damaged cables can cause countless issues and are quick and straightforward items to fix.
3. Check the Calibration
At Digirad, we recommend calibrating the nuclear camera at least twice a year. During this service, the pixel map is checked, and calibrations are performed as needed. It’s important to remember that you need to update the uniformity when you replace a collimator.
4. Manage the Pixel Map
In addition to the calibration check, careful attention should be paid to the pixel map. The pixel map of your camera should follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and be checked regularly. Bad pixels can degrade image quality, and when two bad adjoining pixels are removed, you will have serious image quality issues.
5. Update the Software
Today, software plays an essential role in imaging, so making sure the camera and processing unit are up-to-date is vital. Check with your engineer for any security updates. This prevents security breaches, protects your PHI from hacking, and allows for the software manufacturer to provide you with support (in some instances, support teams won’t maintain equipment with end of life software.)
6. Check the Power
Irregular or improper power fluctuations can cause harm to a nuclear gamma camera, so it’s essential to make sure the camera is receiving proper power. Take time to measure the voltage coming from the outlet that supplies the camera with power. Also, if you are using an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), check the unit to ensure that it is powered and works in the case of an outage.
7. Give it a Good Cleaning
It may be a simple suggestion, but giving the camera a thorough cleaning is a vital part of any preventative maintenance check. Hospitals and medical facilities are a magnet for dust, and dust buildup can easily cause overheating or performance issues. Check all the filters, clean the fans and remove the dust from the camera. It’s amazing what you’ll find when you clean an area that didn’t appear to be visibly dirty.
Additionally, while not mechanical, the presentation matters. Technologists, physicians, and even patients treat the camera differently if it’s clean and looks new vs. being covered in dust and scuff marks.
8. Database Checks
Managing the database of images from the camera should be a regular part of maintenance and perhaps included in the technologists standing “to do” list. This is an often-overlooked step that can cause serious issues. The regular back up of the data and removal of the older studies from the camera unit should be done on a monthly basis. Removing the older studies will keep the database size more manageable and reduce the chance of corrupted information. It may be beneficial to implement a policy where no exam older than 30 days is kept on the system locally; if data is needed in the future, it can easily be imported from PACS.
9. Log the Service
Finally, the last step we recommend is to pull out the logbook (you have a service logbook, right?) and notate what was performed. At the moment, it may seem like you will remember what was covered, but two or three years down the road, it can be beneficial to know when a part or component was repaired or serviced.
A preventative maintenance program is the most effective way to keep your nuclear camera operating at its best and address potential issues before they impact your practice.
A defined maintenance program allows for quicker identification and resolution of camera issues and ensures your system is working at an optimum level at all times, ensuring optimal patient care.
Compared to on-demand service, a preventative maintenance program is less expensive in the long run. It can provide you with prompt service, technical support, software updates, priority parts, expedited delivery, and discounts on labor costs, to name a few.
The important thing with camera maintenance is to be both proactive and consistent. Waiting until there is a problem is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. It will cost you far more time and money than the expenses associated with maintenance.
So, how does your maintenance program stack up? Do you follow these steps, or do you have your own list of items to check? Let us know how you approach camera maintenance and what has produced the best results for your team.