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Making technology work

ELITE engineering creates a double-edged sword for the medical industry.

While a constant stream of technical breakthroughs is helping to prolong lives and enhance the quality of life for many people, these same trends are creating mounting financial pressure on the health care system, as patients expect the very best technology to be available whenever and wherever they need it.

One person in the midst of these issues is Ed Scull, who was appoin-ted last year as head of the depart-ment of medical engineering and physics at Royal Perth Hospital.

He has been nominated as one of the State’s leading implemen-ters of new technology.

Mr Scull is responsible for 89 professional and technical staff in the areas of clinical physics, bio-engineering and scientific compu-ting.

He has worked for more than 30 years at RPH, for much of that time as senior bioengineer in charge of the bioengineering divi-sion, which in broad terms invol-ves the application of engineering principles and technology to the solution of clinical problems.

In that role, he was involved in developing implant technology as well as technology for the disabled through rehabilitation engineer-ing and orthotic services.

This includes developing specialised wheelchairs to meet the varied needs of patients.

A notable initiative was the development of ‘cranioplasty’ plates, which are basically thin sheets of titanium custom made to cover the hole that may be left in the skull after a person has had surgery.

The manufacture of the plates is an intricate process, using CT scans of each patient’s skull, three dimensional computer modelling, computer controlled milling machines, production of physical models using PVC followed by preparation of polyurethane moulds and hand finishing of each plate to the required geometry.

Mr Scull’s department at RPH  is also responsible for evaluating new products coming onto the market.

For instance, there has been exponential growth in the number of implant devices available on the market and increasingly these surgical devices are subject to regulation.

The hospital evaluates the quality of these products, tracks their use and evaluates their performance while also seeking to maintain cost efficiency.

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