A clinic in Lincolnshire hopes to help relieve pressure on the NHS through the use of the county’s only open MRI scanner.
Staff at the new Sleaford branch of MSK Doctors hope their host of modern equipment, sourced from around the world, will help ease the pressure on the NHS.
Opened in December, the private London Road clinic has a range of technologies typically used to treat professional athletes.
Prof Paul Lee, the clinic’s medical director and lower extremity specialist, told Lincolnshire Live there were substantial benefits to assessing patients in an open MRI scanner compared to the traditional doughnut-shaped machine.
Unlike standard scanners, which require patients to remain still, the clinic’s MRI scanner can capture patients in motion as part of a new and growing branch of medicine called motion dynamics.
Professor Lee said: “We want to assess how people move.
“The branch of medicine that we are looking at, which is quite new, is called movement dynamics.
“Traditionally, when people are X-rayed, they’re still lying down, and the joint doesn’t look too bad when you’re still.
“We can watch people when they’re standing, but people aren’t standing all day, they’re walking, so we want to imagine you when the joint is moving and causing the problem.”
According to upper extremity specialist, Mr Alun Yewlett, it would also reduce the waiting time for patients as it would speed up diagnosis.
He said: “Historically, most MRI scans were static images, but none of our athletes’ problems were static.
“It’s obvious when you say it, but it’s not something that’s been looked at.
“You can scan a static image and not see a problem.
“The benefit of being able to see movement is that it allows you to get that information that historically needed to be obtained through invasive treatments.
“You can also get the diagnosis very quickly and make the right patient decisions.
“It doesn’t matter how good the treatment is – if you get the diagnosis wrong, it doesn’t matter.”
The clinic also uses equipment that tests patients’ balance, usually reserved for high-level athletes.
Professor Lee explained: “It’s usually used by elite athletes – they have one at West Ham and one at Chelsea.
“He looks at how quickly people can move from side to side.
“We’ll have people jump on it and jump, then you can see which leg they’re putting the most force on, and from there we can assess if there are any issues in the joints.
“We treat very different people with this equipment. Athletes are normally between 16 and 25 years old, and the emphasis is on 0.2 milliseconds of movement.
“But with someone who needs a joint replacement, the age group is usually between 60 and 90.
“We’re not looking at 0.2 milliseconds, we’re looking at what they can do in five seconds – if they can stand up, that sort of thing.
“It’s the same equipment but on a different scale.
“There is no other installation like this, apart from Harley Street in London.”
The team chose Sleaford as the location for their second clinic because they found it easy for anyone to get there from all over Lincolnshire.
The professor said: “Sleaford is a growing town – there are many, many houses coming up.
“But the main reason is that Sleaford is right in the middle of Lincolnshire.
“It doesn’t take long for people in Lincoln, Grantham or Boston to get there.
“Whatever, our patients are going to have to drive. If the clinic was in the center of Lincoln, then people would be asked to walk when they might not be able to.
“It will also allow people to stay in Lincolnshire for their treatment, and the money will be recycled in Lincolnshire rather than Nottingham or London.”
Prof Lee and Mr Yewlett also work for the NHS and do not intend the clinic to replace a GP’s clinic.
“We are looking at different things for the NHS,” Prof Lee said.
“The NHS is there for us and for any big issue they are absolutely essential.
“We’re both working on it and we both believe in it, but at the same time they can’t offer much – it’s impossible for them to give everyone a half-hour slot because the population is too important.
“By doing this, we want to take the pressure off the NHS by providing a specialist service that a patient can access quickly, as well as MRI scans.
“There’s a pretty big queue for MRI scans, so if they want they can take the scan here and move on to the treatment.”
The building was once better known as Birdie’s Driving Range, before it closed in 2019.
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