Inventive technologist eases patient pain, workflow drain

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When the patient experience gets tough, the radiology technologist gets empathetic.

In Knoxville, Tenn., one tech has gone above and beyond, inventing a positioning aid he calls the “Z box.” It’s essentially an adjustable frame that makes it more comfortable for patients to remain still while keeping their arms straight overhead for 30- to 60-minute procedures—which can feel like forever to folks with flexibility problems.

Right now it’s only being used for radiation therapy in cancer treatment, and at one site at that, but it’s not hard to picture the product working just as well in diagnostic imaging.

“The Z box can be used for immobilization of any thoracic or abdominal case, and can be rotated 180° and used to create a mold of the legs for pelvic simulations,” writes Zachary Allen Dutton, a radiation therapist at Knoxville’s Provision Center for Proton Therapy, in the journal Radiation Therapist. “It also offers a considerable advantage in mold creation for computed tomography simulation setups in treatment deliveries.”

Dutton designed the device in his garage, building a prototype out of wood. The current iteration is made of a “medically acceptable plastic material” that he says is “lightweight, strong, durable and enables easy and thorough cleaning.” It works in tandem with commercial patient-molding products such as Smithers Medical Products’ Alpha Cradle.

“Some centers use Styrofoam boxes made individually for each patient that allow the Alpha Cradle to remain inside the box and grow around the patient, but they must be made new every time for every patient,” writes Dutton. “The box’s strength often is insufficient when the patient climbs into it for computed tomography simulation.”

According to Dutton, the device also allows a technologist to solo a job that used to require a second set of hands, saving time and boosting productivity.

While it’s currently only in use at the Provision Center for Proton Therapy, Dutton told the Knoxville News Herald that other centers have expressed interest in his Z box.

Read Dutton’s journal article here and the newspaper article here