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Top 5 C-Arm Problems and Solutions

Learn how to identify the 5 most common C-arm problems and what to do about them. The good news is that most of the problems can be fixed by following a few simple steps listed below. Otherwise, the hospital biomed team or qualified service engineer needs to be called in to address the issue.

Here’s the 5 common problems that are likely to happen under normal operating conditions.

  1. Pitted X-ray tube
  2. Charger Fail
  3. Low mA error
  4.  Full hard drives
  5. Communication Error

Pitted X-ray Tube: The most common problem for an inoperable C-arm

There are many reasons why the tube becomes pitted, such as overheating, bad or worn-out bearings or lack of use. All C-arms have either a rotating or fixed anode and the anode can become pitted overtime depending on use. When the anode overheats the metallic surface becomes weakened. The electrons projected from the Cathode begin to damage or pit the anode.   

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the tube is pitted while the C-arm is on. But if a clicking sound is heard during fluoro exposure then it’s likely that the tube is pitted. In some cases, the tube still can be used during the procedure and replaced later, but it’s best to change out the C-arm during the case if possible.

In longer flouroscopic cases, such as Triple A’s or prolonged angiograms the C-arm shouldn’t be used until the tube is replaced.

“The best solution is preventative”

Be sure to do a tube warm up before each procedure especially if the C-arm hasn’t been used in over a month. Gases build up inside the x-ray tube of inactive C-arms. These gases cause ”arcing” or flashes of electricity when the C-arm is powered up. The temperatures from arcing can reach over 35,000 F which can pit the anode.

Also, be sure to allow the X-ray tube to cool down during longer fluoro procedures such as Triple A’s or other exams where prolonged flouro use is required. Always heed the “overheating” warning messages during the case to prevent further wear and tear on the tube.

Charger Fail:

This message indicates batteries need replacement. For a “quick fix” a simple reboot may clear the message and be used for a short case. Otherwise, the C-arm should be changed out until the batteries are replaced.

A scheduled PM should catch the low battery issue before it becomes a problem during a case. Have the biomed team replace the batteries or check the boards inside the C-arm.

Low mA error:

This message indicates a low battery issue or that it’s undercharged. Other reasons may include a faulty circuit board, worn out generator or a pitted tube.  

Plug in the C-arm and check after four hours to see if that clears the message. Otherwise, the biomed team should reset the boards, check out the tube and/or change out the batteries.

Download our Free C-Arm guide and get complete information on:

  • Overview of C-Arms
  • Types of C-Arms
  • Which C-Arm is Right for My Practice?
  • Costs & Reimbursements
  • Tips Before Purchasing Your Next C-Arm
  • Radiation Safety

Full Hard Drives

Angiograms and other cinematic runs can overload the C-arm’s hard drive. Be sure to download the images after each angiogram or cases with over 10 images. Otherwise, the hard drive will fill up and more images cannot be saved.

Communication Error

Can be for any number of reasons including faulty boards, generators, or filaments. Maybe fluids leaked inside the housing and shorted out the circuits etc. The biomed team should reset the boards, clean the connections, and replace the boards if necessary.

To Recap

Most C-arm problems can be fixed by following some simple preventative steps in the first place, such as plugging in the C-arm after daily use and downloading the images to PACs.

A yearly scheduled PM during which all the major parts and components are checked out for wear and tear, including the tube and other components such as the batteries, generators and boards can help identify problem before they become major issues. PMs are the best preventative measure for keeping the C-arm operating at its peak capacity.

Also, the biomed team should be notified of any warning message after the case to prevent further damage to the tube and the electronics. Don’t disregard any error message on the C-arm, those messages indicate that something is wrong, and the machine should be pulled out of circulation to prevent further damage.

The C-arm is an integral part of any radiology department’s equipment. And with proper maintenance the C-arm will provide years of reliable service.


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