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The mobile C-arm is on the move

June 18, 2021
Business Affairs X-Ray
Photo courtesy of Turner Imaging Systems
By Graham Cooke

Turner Imaging Systems has ambitious growth plans to expand across Europe, enabled by the confirmation of the CE mark for the Smart C-Arm, adding to the FDA approval received in 2019. This is another step forward in the adoption of truly portable mobile C-Arm devices. Eventually, it is anticipated that this product, and other portable C-arms, will move some low-risk elective surgeries away from hospitals and other primary care centres, and closer to communities to increase access. The Turner Imaging Systems Smart C-arm is a battery-powered, low weight (7.3kg) mobile fluoroscopy and radiography device. Turner Imaging Systems is targeting surgical environments with the Smart C-arm, where the mobility of the product can allow for greater manoeuvrability and easier positioning within an operating theatre. Additionally, there are plans for use in clinics or diagnostic centres, military applications, sporting medicine and remote healthcare and humanitarian causes. Many of these applications are away from the traditional hospital-based surgical settings a C-arm is routinely used in.

Surgery no longer just a hospital-based procedure
One key trend expected to accelerate in the coming years will be moving procedures closer to rural communities which require access to such services the most. This transition is beginning to happen in general radiography, in facilities like malls or imaging centres. Although still in its infancy, until now, moving surgical X-rays out of traditional hospital settings has been rare.

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This is evident with an increase in new outpatient and surgical centres being built in the United States. For example, in Gilbert, Arizona, a new 15,000-square-foot centre for surgical procedures opened in April 2021, with three operating rooms — equipped with Siemens Healthineers Cios Alpha Mobile C-Arm devices. This is housed in a disused Walmart neighbourhood store. In the U.S. market, more outpatient surgical centres are expected to open across the upcoming years.

In a vast country like the U.S., rural areas are often underserved with access to hospital facilities. This proves to be logistically challenging for populations living in such areas if minor surgeries and procedures are required and travelling to the nearest big city hospital may not be feasible, or transportation to the site may not be affordable.

This expansion of clinical settings where C-arms are used will be a stimulus for further sales of mobile C-arms, creating new demand and opportunity. There is already a high penetration of mobile C-arms in developed countries within hospital settings — in 2019, just under 13,000 of the devices were sold globally, mostly to hospitals. However, new outpatient surgical centres located outside of hospitals are relatively untapped, but have vast potential for future investment and sales. Whilst Turner Imaging Systems will naturally attempt to capitalise on this market, other vendors are expected to utilise this new space too. Such mobile C-arm vendors will look to partner with new surgical centres and become their preferred technology partners. At present, only a handful of vendors offer truly portable battery-powered solution. However, this is unlikely to impede the trend given that, for many surgical applications traditional mobile C-arms are still perfectly adequate.

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