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02.07.18

Breakthrough research by NHS Tayside Therapeutic Radiographer

NHS Tayside therapeutic radiographer Fiona Robertson hopes to transform cancer patient experience with her innovative printed 3D mask design.  

Drawing from her experience as a therapeutic radiographer in the oncology service based in Ninewells Hospital and her interest in technology, Fiona Robertson’s research focused on improving comfort for those patients who are required to wear a mask over their head and neck when receiving radiotherapy cancer treatment.

Fiona, along with colleagues from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, designed a mask that could be printed by a 3D printer. When compared to the thermoplastic masks currently used, her study, using healthy volunteers, found a significant reduction in anxiety and distress while wearing the 3D printed mask.
 
Whilst undergoing radiotherapy treatment, it is paramount that a patient is in exactly the same position every day for their treatment. In the research project, the tests delivered the same level of alignment accuracy as those of the thermoplastic masks however more research is needed in order to ensure that this would work in a clinical setting.

Fiona conducted the research project as a part of her Master of Science in Radiotherapy and Oncology at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

Fiona said, “Patients express discomfort in having their eyes covered over, or have difficulties swallowing because of the plastic material over their throat or experience difficulties breathing because of the material pressing on their chest.

“The design of the mask needs to be rigid and supportive but unlike the thermoplastic masks the design could be manipulated to remove a particular area we did not require to be there, for example the material over the eyes, mouth, chest and throat. 

“3D printing also gave the ability to print out the mask to a quarter of a millimetre accuracy of the external body contour of the individual.

 Following the study, Fiona was approached by the organiser of the UNESCO Dundee Design Festival in 2017 to present the 3D printed mask at the festival.

She was awarded Best Proffered Paper and People’s Choice of Best Proffered Paper after she submitted an abstract and presented at the Society and College of Radiographers Annual Radiotherapy Conference in January this year. 

Fiona is now in the process of securing funding to present her findings from the study at the 2018 CARO-COMP-CAMRT Joint Scientific Meeting in Montreal, Canada, in September. 

Karen Anderson, Director of Allied Health Professions with NHS Tayside, said, “Fiona’s work is an example of the innovative practice encouraged in Tayside and how staff, working with design partners in other fields, are able to create solutions to improve care and experience. The opportunity for this work to be looked at by other areas for adopting is very exciting. This is making a significant contribution to safer practice and a better experience for people undergoing treatment."