Lifesaving SA innovation

11 August 2005

A South African device originally designed to detect the theft of diamonds by mineworkers is saving the lives of critically injured patients around the world.

Taking just 13 seconds to provide a full-body x-ray, the Lodox Statscan saves time during the vital “golden hour.”

“It is an innovation designed in South Africa, for South Africa,” says Lodox product manager Rodney Sandwith.

Sandwith received the Chairperson’s Award for the Statscan at the SABS Disa Design Institute Awards in May – the most recent in a succession of awards since the product was first unveiled in 2003.

The Statscan is able to provide scans of both bone and soft tissue, useful in the diagnosis of a wide range of traumatic injuries. The full body overview means injuries can be quickly identified.

“We can use it to make high quality x-rays of the entire body or just a hand. It represents the safest choice for doctors before deciding to use expensive high-dose CT or other scans,” says Sandwith.

This versatility gives the scanner an edge over many other imaging technologies. The open design of the device also means that medical personnel have access to critically injured patients at all times during scanning.

The images are digital, so they can be transferred across the hospital’s computer network, rotated and manipulated without any loss of quality. There is also no need for x-ray film or cartridges, dramatically reducing operating costs.

A study conducted at the trauma unit at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town over more than two years found that the Statscan offered significant improvements in patient handling, reducing the time required to complete a diagnostic examination from 48 to five minutes.

The same study also showed that both patients and medical staff were exposed to significantly lower radiation doses compared to conventional x-ray devices.

The technology at the core of the Statscan was developed for security purposes for De Beers’ diamond mines. When the humanitarian possibilities of the scanner became apparent, De Beers became one of the primary investors in the Lodox consortium.

The other primary backers are the Industrial Development Corporation and emergency services provider Netcare.

The company has recently been awarded a contract to supply the Sudanese government with four Statscans at a total cost of US$1.2-million.

The Statscan is already in use in 10 US hospitals, and has received full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.

“It is a state-of-the-art, lifesaving medical system,” says Sandwith. “A technology all South Africans can be proud of.” reporter

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