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Stress-free scans for our young patients with weak bones

Posted on Tuesday 6th November 2018
Elliot Mace with his mum Amy and technologist Ines Baeta

Elliot Mace with his mum Amy and technologist Ines Baeta

Evelina London patients who need regular scans of their bones are benefiting from a new state-of-the-art machine. 

A dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan is a quick and painless procedure that uses low dose X-rays to measure the density or strength of bones. The scans are often used to diagnose or assess our patients if they are at risk of osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.   

Previously, children and young people who needed the scan had to use the adult DEXA scanning service at Guy’s Hospital. However, thanks to funding from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and the generosity of donors, Evelina London now has the newest model of the DEXA scanner in a space-themed room, with a ceiling hoist and an interactive entertainment system.

The new room has been designed with younger patients in mind and includes two TV screens that show games in 2D or 3D. This provides a welcome distraction during the scan which helps children to stay still.

Elliot Mace, 10 from Margate in Kent, was diagnosed with cystinosis, a rare genetic metabolic condition that weakens the bones, when he was 18 months old. He has suffered three wrist fractures in the last four years. Elliot has regular appointments at Evelina London and requires a DEXA scan once a year.

His mum, Amy, said: “We often have more than one appointment when we visit the hospital so having the new scanner at Evelina London made a huge difference. We spent less time travelling and the whole experience seemed much more relaxing for Elliot.”   

She added: “Staying still for the scan can seem like a long time for a 10 year old so the entertainment system was great at giving him something to focus on – he’s very active so this is the longest I’ve seen him not move.”  

Dr Moira Cheung, consultant children's endocrinologist at Evelina London, said: “We can now offer a one-stop shop for our young patients who attend the osteoporosis clinic, saving families from having to travel between hospital sites to attend their consultant appointments at Evelina London and improving the patient experience.   

“The new scanner has the latest technology and provides high-resolution images, including the spine, reducing the need for further X-rays.”   

Dr Cheung added: “A lot of the children we see have additional needs and use wheelchairs so the ceiling hoist makes things much easier for parents and, if a child is anxious about having the scan, we can have a play specialist on hand to provide extra support.”   

Since machine was installed at the end of July, more than 30 of our young patients have been scanned. Around 200 children and young people are expected to benefit from the new equipment each year.  

Cameron Edmonds, 18 from Gravesend in Kent, has a degenerative muscle disorder called Duchene muscular dystrophy and osteoporosis, and has been under the care of Evelina London for more than 15 years.   

Cameron, who is studying animal management at college, uses a wheelchair and recently had a DEXA scan on the new machine. 

His mum Lisa said: “You could see the joy and relief in his face at how easy it was for him. Having the hoist and being able to attend all our appointments in one day within the same place took so much stress away from us as a family.”   

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity raises money for big things and small touches that make our life-saving care even better and help our patients and their families feel really looked after. For more information about fundraising for Evelina London visit the Support Evelina London website.