Youngsters with Ear Problems Benefit from International Project in South Africa

[2012-09-13] A clinic in Fourways, north of Johannesburg in South Africa, has recently been selected to take part in an international video-otoscopy project to benefit local underprivileged 2–16 year olds with ear problems. This cutting edge technology project was funded by two universities: the University of Pretoria and Umeå University, Sweden.

Video-otoscopy has been around for a few years, but has required considerable investment and a high degree of training for the people involved. Witkoppen Health and Welfare Centre and its Audiology Department is the only medical facility in South Africa to be part of testing Video-otoscopy within the financial reach of smaller medical facilities and can be operated by a facilitator or nurse with basic training.

Caption: Thorbjörn Lundberg, Umeå University, and centre facilitator Violet Mugodo in Fourways examine a patient with an ear problem.

What is Video-otoscopy? It allows a Witkoppen Clinic patient from Diepsloot for example – about 5 miles from the clinic – with an ear problem to be given a traditional examination by the facilitator or nurse. A video of the findings can then be transmitted to experts in the field in Pretoria, Sweden or anywhere in the world. These highly trained personnel can examine the footage and then in a matter of hours, or even minutes depending on the workload, send back their assessment of the patient’s condition and a recommendation for treating the problem.

Otoscopy is the study of ear diseases and hearing disorders. Two experts in this field, from Sweden, Thorbjörn Lundberg, a general practitioner who has become fascinated with this form of medical science, and Otology Professor Claude Laurent, have been working with Witkoppen Clinic staff, training them to use this technology.
They have also had on loan during their visit from 20th to 31st August, an Oto Microscope, courtesy of Leica, a powerful piece of sophisticated equipment worth hundreds of thousands of Rand for in-depth examination of patients’ ears, which only major medical facilities in South Africa would be able to afford.

Professor Laurent was very happy with the progress of the project. “We were hoping to conduct testing on 70 needy children but thanks to the smooth organization of the Witkoppen Clinic we were able to test double that number. As a result, 140 children with ear problems have been examined with the help of this highly sophisticated piece of equipment and, once the video-otoscopy has been studied and the results evaluated, appropriate treatment can be administered.”

Leigh Biagio, a local audiologist who is also a PhD student at the University of Pretoria, is co-ordinating the project with the University of Pretoria. She is impressed with the aptitude of the Witkoppen audiology staff, headed up by Violet Mugodo, in adapting to this technology so quickly and readily.

Editor: Karin Wikman

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