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New XR Technology Improving Patient Care

New XR technology is enabling Children’s of Alabama orthopedic specialists to evaluate injuries more effectively.

Children’s of Alabama has new XR technology in its sports medicine clinic, and orthopedic specialist Kevin Williams, M.D., says it’s a game-changer, enabling specialists to quickly determine the best treatments to get young patients back to their chosen game.

About 5,000 children and adolescents visit the clinic each year—some as repeat patients—seeking help for injuries and congenital bone malformations that include strains and sprains, fractures, torn ligaments and more. Until recently, decades-old X-ray equipment challenged clinicians’ ability to assess and treat these common musculoskeletal problems.

The new XR equipment, which is useful in about 75% of pediatric cases, includes an easily positioned moveable arm with a 135-degree range. The equipment has larger plates that can capture wider images of patients’ bones and soft tissue while “taking into account features of the joints above and below, allowing more comprehensive images while using less radiation,” Williams said.

“There’s also a dynamic mode that allows us to take live, fluoroscopic images or continuous X-ray to evaluate a bone or joint dynamically,” he explained. “This is crucial when we’re trying to inject a joint or aspirate it to get fluid out. The whole system is smaller and more modern, which improves ease of use dramatically.”

Children with ankle injuries have perhaps benefited most from the XR equipment so far, Williams said. “Sometimes, to avoid the need for CT or MRI images, we can use X-ray to determine which ligaments are loose and potentially need to be repaired or reconstructed around the ankle,” he said.

The system’s longer plates also help Williams and his colleagues evaluate leg alignment in patients who seek care for rotational injuries, congenital knock knees or bowed legs. This assessment can dictate if a patient needs bracing, physical therapy or even surgery in which bones may need to be broken and put back into place to align them better for the future and to prevent degenerative problems.

“The XR equipment has been incredibly helpful in terms of allowing us to make appropriate treatment decisions, and it’s much easier to use,” he said. “It speeds up our ability to get patients into the clinic and get an X-ray that’s more valuable to us while decreasing clinic wait times. It really affects almost every patient who comes in needing an X-ray, so it makes us more effective in treating pediatric sports patients.”