New scanner helps kids stay on track with treatment

A new high-tech scanner is giving kids with bleeding disorders a glimpse into the future as a way to help them stay on track with treatment.

The Joint Scanner, donated by Sanofi, uses augmented reality to show patients with haemophilia disorders what their joints will look like 10, 20, 30 years in the future both with and without treatment. The scanner aims to educate patients about the impact of haemophilic arthropathy (permanent and irreversible joint damage) over the course of a lifetime, as well as reinforcing the importance of therapy compliance.

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The Children's Hospital at Westmead (CHW) is the first hospital in the country to receive the scanner, and so far, it's proving to be a great success.

“Pictures often say more than words and this is what I think the scanner will do," Robyn Shoemark, Clinical Nurses Consultant in Haematology said.

"We can talk about the benefits of doing treatment and the consequences of not doing treatment, but what this scanner does is show our patients and their family what this looks like and how this will impact them throughout the life. It makes it much more real."

The Scanner works by using a ‘leap motion’ 3D camera attached to a computer to scan and map a person’s hand when placed under the device. A specially designed software then overlays imagery onto the user’s hand to replicate normal ageing and the impact of joint disease.

While the Scanner uses only the user’s hand as its reference point, it also has the ability to expand the replicated view on the screen beyond the hand to see what is happening elsewhere in the body, focusing on specific joints known to be impacted by haemophilia including the shoulder, knee, or ankle.

Treatment for haemophilia is often self-administered at home, with patients and parents being responsible for treatment compliance. If a treatment is missed, it can cause a "bleed" and lead to bruising and joint swelling. Short-term, the effect of this is minor but if treatments are continually missed over time, it can result in long-term, irreversible damage. The scanner demonstrates the extent of this damage.

“Bleeds are painful and even having one bleed is one too many for people with haemophilia," Robyn said.

"We hope this scanner will help us educate our patients, particularly our teenagers, about why regular treatment is important because even though they may feel fine missing a treatment here or there now, they may be causing themselves long-term damage that will impact their lives in the future."

Fifteen-year-old John can attest to the benefit of the scanner, after becoming the first patient to trial the new technology.

John was diagnosed with Haemophilia A as an infant and has regular treatment at home to help manage his condition. This allows him to live his healthiest life possible and means he can take part in his favourite activities, like hiking.

Using the scanner helped him visualise what his bones could look like in future. He hopes the technology can benefit other young haemophiliacs like him.

“I see the Joint Scanner helping a lot of people, especially younger haemophiliacs, because it’s a very good way to visualise the impact of treatment,” John said.

“It was really cool to see what my bones and joints could look like if I don’t do injections at certain stages of my life. I’ve never seen that before."

"It’s useful because if you can see it, it’s easier to believe it, and you feel more motivated to do regular injections or do what you need to do to manage your haemophilia.”

The Joint Scanner will now be used by the team in the Kids Factor Zone at CHW as an educational tool for children aged 10-years and older, as well as for parents of smaller children living with haemophilia disorders.