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Digital technology requires strict temperature control and vibration free environment

as demonstrated within Paneltex’s latest breast screening trailers

The two latest breast screening trailers being built by Hull-based manufacturer Paneltex for the Breast Screening Unit at the Royal Liverpool and Broad Green University Hospital Trust are the first trailers ordered by the Trust to include state of the art digital mammography technology that improves detection of breast cancer at an early stage, often before there are any symptoms.

The Hospital NHS Trust has taken delivery of its first two Paneltex built digital screening trailers and they are being used, as part of the National Breast Screening Programme, to increase the capacity of the Breast Screening Unit. The two trailers will continue to enable screening to be taken out to the population in Merseyside, covering an area from Speke in the south, right up to Southport and Churchtown in the north.

At its factory in Hull, Paneltex has built a maximum length 13.6m digital screening trailer with twin X-ray rooms, as well as a more compact 11m digital screening trailer with a single X-ray facility. According to Chris Berridge, managing director, Paneltex Ltd, "The trailers are extremely complex to manufacture as the switch from analogue to digital screening equipment requires the use of far more temperature-sensitive systems, which in turn require greater temperature control as well as a vibration-free environment. "

The 13.6 m Paneltex twin-screening trailer has three separate air conditioning systems to control the temperature in each area of the trailer as well as improved levels of insulation, whilst the backup generator for the climate control is housed in an acoustic enclosure.

The air conditioning installed is a split system, which incorporates exterior condenser units mounted in an under floor locker. These are connected to and service three interior mounted air distribution units: one in each of the two X-ray rooms and the third unit located between the roof and the suspended ceiling, above the reception desk. The system also has a heat pump, which enables the units to provide heating as well as cooling. In extremely cold weather conditions when the heat pump becomes inefficient, electric heaters in the x-ray rooms take over from the air conditioning units automatically.

A backup generator, housed in an acoustic enclosure in one of the under floor lockers, will start up automatically should mains power to trailers fail. This then maintains power to the climate control system.

As Chris Berridge explains, "Digital detectors are extremely sensitive to temperature and our design allows strict climate control throughout the trailer. Typically x-ray room temperatures between +22°C and +25°C are specified by the equipment manufacturers. The temperature control system we designed was tested at MIRA for extreme heat and cold from +35° C to -49° C. Our composite insulated body panels provide the highest levels of insulation in their field, which means that our mammography trailers have the lowest running costs of any units on the market. These trailers have also been designed to be vibration-free, in order to avoid blurred images during the mammograms."

Health and safety is another key feature of the new Paneltex trailers, with the access steps meeting full building regulations. Access steps are provided to all entrance/exit doors, which have shallow non-slip steps, warm to the touch double handrails and a large platform area to facilitate entry and exit from the trailer. Lighting is provided in the step treads to the main door access and in conjunction with the overhead exterior lighting makes for safe use of the steps at all times.

Inside the trailer, the Breast Screening Unit has specified Selenia digital mammography machines in individual X-ray rooms at either end of the trailer, together with a central reception/office area that includes a full kitchen facility. Other internal features include concealed music audio systems throughout the whole trailer; changing cubicle areas and all interior fittings and furnishings supplied to current NHS regulations.

"We’re probably one of the few trailer manufacturers in this country that can design, manufacture and support such complex trailers. Within the Paneltex organisation, we manufacture not only the trailer chassis and the trailer body but also all the furniture. With our proven temperature control product assembly skills, this allows us to exercise complete control of the final quality of the end trailers," said Chris Berridge.

Both trailers are now in service for the Hospital NHS Trust and Paneltex are currently providing a full service contract to the Trust for the trailers.

According to Ali Guest, superintendent radiographer at the Breast Screening Unit, "The introduction of the two new mobile digital breast screening trailers is part of the National Breast Screening Programme, which is currently expanding to provide a breast screening service for women aged between 47 and 73. We have worked very closely with Paneltex on the specification and manufacture of these new digital trailers and this is a working relationship that goes back 10 years. Having worked closely with us on previous breast screening trailers, Paneltex fully understands our requirements and has manufactured trailers that will provide an efficient and high quality breast screening service in our area."

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