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Is a CT tube crisis on the horizon?

Philip F. Jacobus , President
From the August 2018 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

30 years ago, I was selling used Delta 50 CAT scanners that took 45 minutes to scan a patient. We have come a long way since then.

I remember when 3.5 million heat unit tubes were the standard and 5 million heat unit tubes were a big deal. In those days you might have to change a tube three times in two years.

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The government made it attractive for private business people to invest in CT scanners, which at the time were a lot more expensive than they are today (when you factor inflation).

However, all that's changed now. CT is shifting back to hospitals, CT scanners have dropped in price (at least relatively speaking) and they are more abundantly available.

All the while we have seen an increase in utilization, where CT scanners are being relied on to perform a higher volume of exams. Even thought tubes are lasting longer, in some cases 24 months, the demand for CT tubes is increasing.

There is a lot of talk about independent players and in-house service people, but let's not forget about the manufacturers.

More and more firms around the world, in countries such as Germany, Holland, Korea, China, India and the United States, are manufacturing CT scanners. In China alone, to my knowledge, there are five companies manufacturing CT scanners.

But how many companies manufacture CT scanner tubes? Of course all of the long established OEMs manufacture tubes. GE, Siemens, Philips and Canon do but when it comes to independent manufactures there are only a handful. Varex, the Dunlee brand of Philips, Chronos, and Richardson Electronics.

Independent service companies and in-house service teams historically have relied on these independent manufacturers of CT tubes. What would happen if these independent manufacturers decided that the juice is not worth the squeeze when it comes to manufacturing these tubes?

Will the manufacturers that support ISOs and in-house service teams continue to invest in manufacturing the latest and greatest replacement tubes or once again will the cost not seem justified?

I have to asked myself, will Philips continue to direct Dunlee to manufacture alternative tubes as it currently does? Philips says absolutely, in fact I was told that Philips is exploring the viability of new CT tubes.

Varex is also an option and I'm told they are investigating new replacement tubes.

in fairness, I think that everybody was holding their breath to see what happened with the FDA docket and report. I can't imagine that Dunlee or Varex wanted to invest in new replacement tubes without knowing the fate of ISOs and in house service teams.
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