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New tech is making the right sounds

In a first for the region, Wairarapa residents at risk of developing a common, potentially life-threatening condition are now able to access an early diagnostic tool.

The French-made DEXA full body composition scan is especially useful for detecting osteoporosis, even at an early stage. It can also detect who might be at risk of serious fractures.

The dual-energy x-ray was brought to the region in late 2021 by Greytown-based husband-and-wife medical imaging practice Greyscale Ultrasound, after Dan Burton – a medical sonographer – realised there was a shortage of specialist ultrasound facilities in Wairarapa.

“Patients had to travel to the Hutt to have osteoporosis testing, and a lot of patients are potentially not able to do that, and so they were missing out,” he said.

The diagnostic tool is aimed at those at risk of developing osteoporosis, which primarily affects older people and women in particular.

Osteoporosis causes bones to become thin and fragile and more prone to fractures.

“At least one in three women and one in five men will suffer from a fragility fracture,” Burton said.

In older people, such fractures can have serious consequences, including infection, surgery and, in severe cases, even death.

Early detection of the condition and consequent early medical intervention and treatment go some way to mitigating bad outcomes, Burton said, but it is difficult to identify those in need of treatment since the condition has few early symptoms.

The DEXA imaging machine is also “the gold standard for identifying bone mineral density”, which quantifies the future risk of fractures.

The procedure involves a low-risk, non-invasive scanning procedure that takes about 15 minutes.

“Because the amount of x-ray used in this is about one-tenth of a chest x-ray, it’s considered harmless,” Burton said.

“There are no real measurable bio-effects.”

People can be referred for the procedure by their healthcare provider, or they can self-refer. The current waitlist at the practice is less than a week, and some cases are eligible for central funding.

More information is at greyscaleultrasound.co.nz

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