Scanner catches eye problems
A state-of-the-art $75,000 eye scanning machine in Wanaka, should catch eye complaints earlier and take some pressure off patients who must travel out of town for diagnosis.
Optometrist Danielle Ross bought the $75,000 Ocular Coherence Tomography scanner, for her Eyes on Ardmore premises and said she was discussing sharing it with fellow Wanaka optometrist Tui Homer of Central Vision.
It is the only OCT machine in the Queenstown Lakes district and apart from catching eye diseases earlier, Ross hopes her investment will open up possibilities for specialists to provide outpatient services in Wanaka in the future.
Dunedin retinal surgeon Harry Bradshaw reacted positively to Wanaka’s OCT machine. It should catch vision disorders earlier, particularly macular holes.
Bradshaw said it should also remove some of the barriers of travelling to Dunedin or Christchurch for diagnosis and allow some patients to be monitored in Wanaka with images being forwarded to him in Dunedin.
While the present structure of Southern District Health Board eye health services means it is unlikely specialists would be providing Wanaka clinics in the short term, there was scope for certain types of private clinics in the future, Bradshaw said.
‘‘Some of my patients who have mild retinal problems may be able to be monitored in Wanaka, with the OCT images forwarded to me. There may be scope privately to offer intravitreal Avastin for agerelated macular degeneration patients in the future at the [Wanaka Lakes Health Centre].
‘‘However, this would still require clinical examination with a slit lamp and dilated fundal examination, as well as the OCT, so some work needs to be done logistically to make this a reality,’’ he said.
Bradshaw said he was not able to travel to Wanaka ‘‘at this stage’’, as the eye clinic is not staffed to support the lost clinic time in travel and the considerable equipment demand.
It was difficult to see how the health board could structure the funding for patients getting an OCT and it wouldn’t be practical to use Dunstan Hospital, which also did not have any eye equipment and would need to invest at least $60,000 in equipment, he said.
Ross said her business was the only one in the district offering the advanced preventative examinations (scans cost $170) and she was keen to continue talking with Dunedin specialists about outpatient clinics in Wanaka. The OCT machine operates in much the same way as an ultrasound machine, using light as opposed to sound, she said. Optometrists can see much deeper into the eye than was previously possible with a retinal photograph.
Preventable diseases such as macula degeneration, glaucoma, retinal detachment and keratoconus, all of which can lead to blindness, could be picked up years earlier.
Problems could then be treated before they developed into serious eyesight issues, she said.
Diagnosis with OCT is standard in other parts of the world but it is relatively new to New Zealand, with only a handful of optometrists in the South Island using the equipment.
Bradshaw said many patients came to Dunedin from Central Otago, and particularly Wanaka.
‘‘I would see 10-15 per week. However the number who come through in total to the eye clinic would be much higher – 20-30 per week I would guess.
‘‘The majority of these are elderly patients with age-related macular degeneration who require OCT scanning, clinical review and often intravitreal injections of Avastin.’’
Wanaka optometrist Danielle Ross scans the eye of Linda Spove on her new Ocular Coherence Tomography machine.