Retrofitting Radiology Room Support Structures

Clients often ask us about reusing existing radiology room support structures when swapping out older machines for newer equipment.  When the size and weight of the systems are similar, clients assume we can retrofit their existing support structure.  Sometimes we can recycle an existing support structure with some minor tweaks, but in other cases, we can’t.  Since this question comes up frequently, we decided to devote a Tech Talk Post to its discussion.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume the owner is swapping a GE system for a Philips or vice versa.  Both systems are similarly sized, weighing about 1,000 pounds each.  With this information in mind, you might think that re-using the support structure is a slam dunk, but we can’t begin to make this call before removing the ceiling tiles and inspecting the existing system. If we are dealing with fabricated red iron supports, it may be difficult to mount the new equipment without making significant modifications, including welding.  Welding is always problematic in a hospital setting due to fumes, dust, and the risk an open flame poses around bottled gases. On the other hand, if the support structure is modular, strut based system, the odds of repurposing go up, but there is a catch. 

The General Contractor has final responsibility for the strength and stability of the mounting structure—not the x-ray equipment manufacturer. If the equipment fails, the manufacturer may point to an inadequate support structure and void the warranty.  With this in mind, how do we determine if the existing structure is adequate? We start by referencing the existing system's engineering calculations and drawings to assess the structure strength.  If we did the original work, this information is archived in our system.  

In cases where another vendor completed the work, we need to secure the original drawings and calculations or re-engineer the system. The engineering review may determine the support structure is compatible as is, or with minor modifications.  The key is having the engineering data in hand to protect your warranty and the patients and personnel near suspended equipment that can weigh more than 1,000 pounds.  An engineering review may seem like an unnecessary step to some, but it is vital to ensure safe operation of the new system. Getting back to answering the original question, yes, there are specific instances where we DO re-purpose existing systems.  For example, we recently fielded an inquiry regarding reusing a ten-year-old GE 3 rail system. 

After years of reliable service, a decision was made to remodel and outfit a radiology room with equipment from another manufacturer.  The owner wanted a slightly lower ceiling, and they were keen on keeping project costs to a minimum.The original drawings and calculations verified the feasibility of mounting the Unistrut support structure beneath an existing GE 3 rail system on spacing as mandated by Philips.  The finished project shown below illustrates what we can do with the proper support documentation in hand:


The next picture below is from the same hospital.  When this radiology room was remodeled, we again consulted our original drawings and calculations before mounting P5500T rails below the existing grid to support new GE equipment.


Overhead medical equipment support structures are not unlike the foundation of a house.  We build on an existing foundation, but only when the structure is sound.  The analogy used here is a bit simplistic, but now you should have a better understanding of the information required to make an informed decision. To learn more about radiology support structures, including reusing an existing system, contact Unistrut Service Company for further assistance.