New radiotherapy machine a first
Wellington’s sometimes-strained cancer services have taken a major stride forward with the delivery of a new radiotherapy machine, the first of its kind in Australasia.
Capital & Coast District Health Board radiation oncology services clinical leader Carol Johnson said the Varian Truebeam radiotherapy linear accelerator would allow more sophisticated treatment for some cancers and improved efficiency for most.
The $5 million machine was delivered to Wellington Hospital on Saturday, to replace a 14-yearold machine than had delivered more than 100,000 treatments.
Dr Johnson said the new machine offered better-quality, lower-energy computerised tomography (CT) scanning, which can more accurately direct radiation treatment, while exposing patients to lower levels of scanning radiation.
It has better options of treatment beams, allowing the radiation to be focused on a tightly described area, reducing the number of treatments needed and minimising damage to surrounding tissue.
‘‘What it will allow us to do is to treat people in a more complex fashion, in a more complex way, without the same impact on wait times.’’
However, these are specialised applications usually used for liver cancer, secondary brain cancer or small primary lung tumours, Dr Johnson said.
The new machine’s imaging capabilities will also offer very modest, but important gains in the unit’s day-to-day activities.
‘‘When you are treating lots and lots of patients these small gains add up.’’
Every year, 1300 patients receive about 20,000 radiation treatments at Wellington Hospital and radiation treatment rates have grown by 23 per cent in the past four years.
There are 68 of the new machines in the world, with another 220 on order.
Dr Johnson said that there would be a few weeks of disruption while the linac was installed and commissioned, and the remaining two machines would run for longer each day to maintain services.
The six-tonne United-States-built machine had to be floated into the hospital on hovercraft.
It is ‘‘ plug-and-play’’, in that it has been designed to fit straight onto the old machine’s base, using the same plumbing, electrical and instrument connections.
Leader of the pack: Radiation oncologist Carol Johnson is delighted the board’s new radiotherapy machine has arrived.