Assisting Medical Research to improve LINAC Availability

Researching LINAC Availability

Egerton Consulting has been working with Dr Suzie Sheehy from the University of Oxford on a new government research project to improve the availability of radiotherapy linear accelerator (LINAC) services, particularly in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs).

The Problem

There is a severe shortage of medical LINACs in LMICs, limiting capacity for cancer care in these regions. This shortfall (currently estimated to be around 5,000 machines) is predicted to more than double over the next 20 years. Anecdotal information also suggests that those LINACs that are in use within LMICs have a much lower availability than is seen in High Income countries such as the UK. This discrepancy exists for a variety of reasons, not all of which are fully understood but they are believed to include:

  • Intolerance to local power fluctuations
  • Harsh climatic conditions (i.e. high temperatures and humidity)
  • Geographic isolation leading to difficulties in accessing specialist maintenance staff and spares.

A major objective of the government research project is to develop a LINAC design that is highly reliable within LMIC environments without being prohibitively expensive. As a first step the University of Oxford wanted an objective means of identifying which parts of a LINAC are most likely to lead to equipment failure and prolonged outages. The University therefore invited Egerton Consulting to produce an easy-to-use tool that could be used to guide future design developments.

Excel-based Tool to Calculate LINAC Availability

The resulting software (developed within Excel) allows users to calculate the availability of a generic LINAC design based on the number, availability and configuration of its composite systems. Use of the tool enables them to predict the benefits that may result from simple changes to the design and to the number or location of spares held.

Further information about the research project and the collaboration between Egerton Consulting and the University of Oxford can be found in the paper How Robust are Existing Medical LINACs in Challenging Environments? A Study Of Down Time And Failure Causesby Sheehy et al. and presented at the 10th International Particle Accelerator Conference held in May 2019.

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