3D colour wrist scanner set to revolutionise broken bone treatment

A 3D colour wrist scanner developed in Christchurch could revolutionise the way patients are treated.

Someone injures their wrist every 10 minutes in New Zealand, but many bone-breaking injuries can be missed by x-ray diagnosis.

Swelling and bruising can make it hard to determine whether a fall caused a sprain to your wrist or a broken bone. 

The scanner is being developed at MARS Bioimaging in Christchurch.

The usual way of assessing an injury is through basic black and white x-rays, which MARS Bioimaging director Anthony Butler says isn’t always effective.

"They miss about 15 percent of significant injuries, and so those people will go home with a cast on, they'll have pain. But it may take a couple of weeks for that injury to be diagnosed." 

That delay can increase the seriousness of an injury, requiring multiple operations, and a long recovery.

The MARS scanner has been in development for more than a decade, it uses full-colour 3D imaging technology to give detailed measurements of the tissue.

Dr Ross Keenan from Pacific Radiology says the scanner allows doctors to see more than just the bone. 

"Normally we just see bone. On this, we see bone, soft tissue, ligaments, bone swelling."

Surgeons can also monitor bone healing after metal devices are inserted in the wrist.

Pacific Radiology will trial the scanner at its Christchurch After Hours clinic, assessing wrist injuries.

Butler is glad the scanner will be making a difference.

"It's a good place to start because we know it's an important condition, we know it really affects peoples' lives. So being able to make a difference there will accelerate the technology into other conditions."

If successful the technology could have applications for diseases like arthritis, stroke, and even cancers.