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23 September, 2013

New kidney dialysis machines very susceptible to power quality issues

Power quality is especially critical in hospitals, where life sustaining processes demand clean reliable electrical supplies. This was recently highlighted at Glan Clwyd Hospital in North Wales where a problem became apparent on the renal dialysis unit during the testing of emergency generators. The switch from mains power to generator power was causing the newer, computer-controlled dialysis machines to close down and generate an alarm. This caused distress to patients and problems for staff who needed to reset several machines quickly before their blood began to coagulate.

Resets were generally successful, though occasionally a unit would not respond so a patient would need to be moved onto a spare machine. The problem was solved with uninterruptible power supplies to provide continuity of operation at the hospital during generator testing. Ten 2.5kVA UPSs are now used in the dialysis unit and one on a treadmill in the cardiovascular unit to safeguard patients from injury should power failure cause the treadmill to stop suddenly.

(Extracted from page 121 of IEE Review, May 1999, Take care: not all UPSs appear to be as reliable as we might wish!)

Originally published in "The First 500 Banana Skins", Nutwood UK Ltd 2007, Email for a copy, cost around £10 plus p&p.

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