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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY BUSINESS | VENTURA COUNTY
REVIEW

New High-Tech X-Ray Device Makes House Calls

September 29, 1998|LEO SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Westlake Village chiropractor David Eckerson has taken to the streets to treat clients.

The health-care practitioner has hit the highways, the driveways, the boulevards and just about anywhere else in Ventura and Los Angeles counties in which he can maneuver his brand-new, 25-foot motor home.

It's not the traditional house-call transportation. But then Eckerson's house-call equipment is hardly traditional.

Riding along with Eckerson on his house-to-house and clinic-to-clinic visits is a state-of-the-art, $150,000 motion X-ray machine. The high-tech diagnostic tool, in use for three months, is able to capture images of patients in motion, something traditional static X-rays are unable to do.

Eckerson's mobile motion X-ray unit is one of about two dozen across the country. The machines, which incorporate a technology called video fluoroscopy, were manufactured by Florida-based VF Works and franchised to independent operators. Eckerson teamed with a group of investors from North American Imaging of Camarillo to form the Nu-Best Diagnostic Labs partnership operating the local franchise.

"People hurt when they move, so what better way to see why they're hurting?" said Eckerson, general manager of Nu-Best.

"Doctors can now visualize instabilities in damage to ligaments and cartilage," he said. "We saw this technology available and we saw that there was going to be a big demand for this in the future. This is what we've been trying to do for a long time--we've been trying to find out what's happening when the patient is in motion."

Although video fluoroscopy technology has been around for nearly 40 years, Eckerson said, it is only recently that motion X-rays became legitimate diagnostic tools.

"Computer software has improved, X-ray technology has improved, the advancement of computer technology and camera technology has changed," he said.

"In the past, images were very poor and the radiation to the patient was very high. Now the radiation is very low and the images are very, very good."

Dr. William Coburn, a member of the Medical Wellness Group in Thousand Oaks, is a client of Nu-Best Diagnostic Labs. He said the ability to X-ray a patient in motion can significantly enhance a doctor's ability to make a diagnosis.

"It tells us much more about the functional status of the spine and the joints," he said. "It can give us considerable help in documenting a disability and projecting the type of therapy needed."

Coburn said the tests are most beneficial in diagnosing shoulder, elbow, knee and hip injuries.

"Those are the joints with the biggest mobility, where you can see most dramatically any compromises in function and limitation," he said.

"There are situations, circumstances, where a static X-ray can be very valuable, times when movement assessment is not as important as others, but it is a rare case where a [motion X-ray] cannot add a measure of assistance."

Eckerson said he and his business partners eventually plan to operate up to five mobile X-rays units--one each serving Ventura County, the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, northern Orange County and San Diego.

"In the future, I could see that this is going to almost make static X-rays obsolete for anything other than fractures and tumors," he said.

Like MRI mobile units that travel to outpatient clinics, the motion X-ray machines, according to Eckerson, will probably remain mobile to some degree.

"To buy the unit is too expensive for most doctors," he said. "It will always be mobile, but as more and more people use it, I think multi-doctor clinics that have a lot of money will have them."

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