Evaluation Background: Motorized Surgical C-Arms with Flat-Panel Detectors

February 7, 2018 | Evaluations & Guidance


Here's background for our Evaluations of surgical C-arm systems, outlining the key considerations for making wise purchasing decisions. Learn how the technology is used, which specs are important, and what factors we test for. Also review our latest product ratings and ECRI Institute's data describing hospitals' interest in each vendor.

Surgical C-arms provide fluoroscopic and radiographic images of vessels and organs of the body during a surgical procedure. C-arm systems are 2-D, 2-D motorized, or 3-D systems. 3-D systems are motorized 2-D systems with added capabilities. Most existing C-arms are non-motorized and are positioned manually. Motorization enables the surgeon to control the position of the C-arm and allows specific projections to be saved and reproduced.

Non-motorized 2-D systems are widely used to help guide many surgical and pain-management procedures, including vascular, cardiology, neurology, pain-management, urology, and orthopedic procedures. Motorized 2-D systems are used for more complicated and demanding surgical procedures such as vascular and cardiology procedures. And 3-D systems are usually used for complex or sensitive orthopedic procedures, such as cases sometimes encountered in trauma and spinal interventions, as well as for specialized procedures such as maxillofacial and cochlear procedures; these systems are usually compatible with surgical navigation systems.

C-arms are a mature technology; however, since 2006, manufacturers have been replacing traditional image intensifiers with more expensive digital flat-panel detectors. Also, they have added more advanced features to reduce patient radiation dose and improve workflow. The availability and performance of these features play a key role in our ratings of these products. Flat-panel detectors afford several advantages, including improved image quality, elimination of distortion, and potential for 3-D imaging. Our C-arm Evaluations include systems that have a flat-panel detector. ECRI Institute notes that 3-D imaging is gradually becoming more widely available.

The major components of a typical C-arm system are transported on one or two wheeled carts. One cart transports the following components:

  1. X-ray generator: provides power...

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