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New 3D imaging reduces radiation dose for scoliosis patients

EDMONTON — Children with spinal deformities like scoliosis or other skeletal conditions are now receiving reduced radiation doses thanks to new diagnostic imaging technology at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.

Edmonton is now home to a low-dose, 3D imaging system that captures whole body images of a standing patient in a single scan, eliminating the need for traditional X-rays for most scoliosis patients. More than 700 pediatric patients have benefited since the system’s launch last Nov. 19.

The EOS Imaging System exposes children to seven to nine times less radiation than standard X-ray machines as it creates a high-quality image by scanning the spine of a patient in approximately seven seconds. The refined images are used for initial diagnosis and assessment.

The system also boasts a micro-dose setting which exposes patients to 50 times less radiation than a standard X-ray. While a micro-dose image may not be as clear as the traditional image, it’s sufficient to monitor disease progression for scoliosis patients who require follow-up imaging.

“X-rays and scans can be helpful, even life-saving, but increased exposure to radiation can lead to an increased incidence of cancer,” says Dr. Marc Moreau, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Stollery. “It’s important to use the lowest dose possible when scanning a child; this technology allows us to obtain the best quality imaging without compromising the safety of our patients.”

Scoliosis, defined as a spinal curvature of more than 10 degrees to the right or left, impacts three to five per cent of children, and typically affects girls more frequently and more severely than boys. The scoliosis clinic at the Stollery sees about 1,800 patient visits per year, with patients who often require scans every six months.

“Scoliosis is a three-dimensional deviation of the spine, but traditional X-rays only give us a two-dimensional view,” says Dr. Moreau. “This new device uses an ultra-low dose of radiation to provide extremely detailed, high-quality images. Using the EOS machine makes imaging safer for our pediatric patients and gives a more accurate perspective for diagnosis, surgical treatment and follow-up of the spine.”

Philippa Madill, 13, of Drayton Valley, was five years old the first time her spine was X-rayed. Her older sister Hannah, who was also diagnosed with scoliosis, received as many as four X-rays per year to monitor her spine as she grew up.

“Every time they X-rayed the girls I would cringe,” says their mother Sue Madill. “Knowing they were constantly being exposed to radiation always bothered me.”

In May, Philippa had her first scan using the new EOS Imaging System.

“As a parent, it is such a relief that this machine is available now,” she adds, “and that Philippa will be receiving substantially less radiation as she continues to grow.”

The Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation contributed $750,000 towards the machine and an additional $27,500 for the micro-dose software.

“The EOS imaging system is a prime example of why the foundation funds excellence at the Stollery,” says Mike House, President and CEO of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.

“This advanced equipment improves the health and safety of children by reducing their exposure to radiation during diagnostic testing. Thanks to our generous donors, the Stollery is the only hospital in Alberta, and just one of two in western Canada, using the EOS system on a clinical basis.”

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The Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation is committed to transforming children’s health care by funding excellence at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. Excellence comes in many forms: specialized equipment; sub-specialty education to train the brightest medical minds; research to discover new treatments and cures; and specialized pediatric programs that enhance family centred care, and patient and family outcomes at the Stollery.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

Media inquiries:

Sharman Hnatiuk
AHS Communications

Martin Schuldhaus
Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation