By James Markland

Pearltec, a medical supply company based in Zurich, Switzerland, has introduced an inflatable pad-based positioning system for CT and MRI examinations. The system has a number of distinct advantages over standard cushion-based setups, which are currently used in 99% of examinations in the United States.

The Pearltec positioning system for CT and MRI exams.

The Pearltec positioning system for CT and MRI exams.

The Pearltec system is composed of a selection of inflatable pads that are specifically or universally designed to fit to all parts of the body with models for adults and children, and coil-specific applications. The pads are inflated with a small hand pump, which fills inflatable air chambers surrounded by soft movable polystyrene “pearls” to provide optimum fixation of patients during MRI and CT studies. This unique fixation matrix minimizes motion artifacts, improves image quality, and reduces the number of repeat exams.

Because of the versatility of the Pearltec products, they can replace a wide variety of currently used positioning aids such as foam pads, pillows, and, in some cases, rolled-up towels. The products offer better hygiene, greater patient comfort, and enhanced workflow efficiency.

Linda Campbell, a certified radiologic technologist and MRI coordinator at Intermountain Healthcare based in Salt Lake City, agrees that the biggest advantage and benefit they found with the Pearltec products was that the pads were adaptable to each patient. “You can expand the product to fit each individual’s needs and comfort level,” she said. “The small duo pads were a great help to us in our Level I trauma center where there are many patients who have altered consciousness but cannot have sedation.

“Our favorite feature,” Campbell said, “is the varying levels of expansion of the product. You can adjust the pads to fit different sizes of patients. None of us are built exactly the same so the capability to mold to the patient is of utmost importance. If you are able to conform to the patient’s specific body part, there is much better motion suppression than a one size fits all sponge.”

Pearltec’s better stability than foam cushions means fewer exam retakes and better workflow efficiency. The General Hospital Oberengadin (Switzerland) has used Pearltec products for more than 1 year and has seen retakes reduced by 50%. Campbell reports even greater improvement. “I would estimate an 80-90% motion artifact reduction with Pearltec. In our setting, we have a lot of neurologically impaired patients who cannot be sedated. This product helps greatly with that.”  If you save just one retake per month, the product pays for itself many times over, according to the company.

In terms of workflow efficiency, the pads can individually adapt and fill the space between the patient and coil with a matter of a few squeezes of the pump. A recent customer survey conducted in Switzerland confirms that on average the setup time is reduced by 30% over foams. Campbell concurred, “The positioning pads are very easy to use, often taking a couple of minutes or less to adjust to the patient.”

Another advantage is improved hygiene. There is no need to dispose of the product if soiled. The Pearltec pads, unlike foams, have two protective surfaces. First, the single use disposable covers offer a level of individual protection, and the product surface can be easily cleaned with any sanitizer. Unlike foam pads, there is no need to dispose of product because you cannot get it clean or its protective surface is destroyed.

Many providers say that patients feel more at ease with the Pearltec engineered positioning pad design. Better patient comfort is an additional factor that leads to less movement and, therefore, fewer retakes. A survey at the University Hospital of Bern (Insel) reinforces the importance of patient comfort. Carole Stucker, lead radiographer at Insel, explained it this way, “The patients experience the device as cushy and comfortable, and it helps them to lie motionless.”

The Pearltec pads are durable and long-lasting, Campbell reports. “Since we initiated their use a couple of years ago, we have only had to replace one set of the duo product.” Campbell conceded that the price is somewhat high, but added, “They do last a long time so in the big picture they are well worth the money.”