Archive March 2016 XVII, No. 3

Thinking of Buying ... A C-arm

Streamlined design and digital data have improved imaging.

Karen Wenning, RN


The useful life of a well-maintained C-arm may span more than a decade, but most facilities will be lucky to experience 7 to 10 years of normal use. One indicator that it's time for an upgrade is an overall decrease in the image quality your equipment delivers. A deteriorating image makes it more difficult to complete cases within their allotted time frames, and extending procedure times results in increased radiation doses to patients and staff, user dissatisfaction and lost revenue for the facility. There's good news, though: Your next C-arm may incorporate some impressive advances. Here's what to look for.

The flat factor
What a difference a decade makes. The latest generation of mobile fluoroscopic imaging units has come a long way from older, bulkier models. In 2009 the flat panel detector, an alternative to traditional image intensifier technology, was introduced in the United States. Not only are flat panel detectors more streamlined, they're also able to provide highly detailed imaging, even of small structures, for orthopedic clarity while exposing patients and staff to less radiation. Flat detectors also run cooler than image intensifiers, a technology that had not seen significant changes since its introduction.

Mobile C-arms feature image intensifiers and image receptors that are either 6 inches, 9 inches or 12 to 13 inches. A 6-inch field of view is usually found on mini C-arm systems, which are ideally suited for such orthopedic extremity applications as wrist, elbow, ankle and foot surgeries. Mini C-arms with flat panel detectors create the lowest radiation doses, making them a good choice for pediatric applications.

The compact design of flat panel detectors clears a lot of space in a surgical suite, allowing the physician more room at the field and demanding less of a storage footprint between cases. Touchscreen capabilities as well as the ability to swivel and lock the arm at almost any angle provide operational ease and efficiency.

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