Patients suffering from severe balance disorders will soon have access to faster diagnosis and treatment, with the addition of rare, advanced technology at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.
The Epley Omniax System, one of only 34 in the world and only the second in Australia, increases diagnostic accuracy for sufferers of the balance disorder, Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV), the most common cause of vertigo. This allows for shorter hospital stays and a rapid return to daily activities and productivity for the patient.
The $225,000 system was secured thanks to the generous funding from the Gandel Foundation Community Build grant, designed to support programs and activities that have the potential for greater community impact. While the health implications can be quite debilitating, the economic cost of disorders like BPPV to the community is also significant, with 41 per cent of sufferers requiring sick leave.
Gandel Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Vedran Drakulic says that the introduction of this equipment to Victoria was an important consideration for the Trustees.
“The Board was keen to support the purchase of cutting edge equipment that can help better diagnose various forms of balance disorder. The fact that this equipment means Victorians will no longer have to travel interstate to have this kind of diagnosis done only added to the strength of this application,” said Mr Drakulic.
Balance disorders are debilitating conditions that severely impact the sufferer’s quality of life. They are also widespread, with 40 per cent of patients over 40 and more than two-thirds of people over 60 years of age experiencing some form of dizziness or loss of balance.
Neurologist and neuro-otologist, Dr David Szmulewicz says the new system will mean an improved quality of life for patients, particularly those with complex forms of BPPV or suffering other diseases that hinder treatment, who are often forced to live with chronic untreated dizziness.
“Patients with unrecognised BPPV may have sustained a fall in the previous three months and are often unable to work, care for family members, drive or other simple daily activities that define our independence. This is why many sufferers may also experience depression,” Dr Szmulewicz says.
The Epley system will also advance current research into balance conditions undertaken at the Eye and Ear.
“Not only will the Epley system allow for a safe diagnosis and management of BPPV but will allow our research into this area at the Eye and Ear to continue developing,” said David.
“The funding we have received from Gandel Foundation will considerably expand the horizons of our current research projects, helping us to inform the scientific community globally about how we deal with this debilitating condition in the future.”
The Eye and Ear treats around 2000 patients with dizziness and balance problems each year and are among the most common emergency department presentations. The vestibular outpatient clinic sees a further 3000 patients annually – expected to rise to 5000 due to the expansion of the clinic’s services.
The Epley Omniax System will be accessible to patients attending the Eye and Ear Balance Disorder and Ataxia Clinic later this year.