Onsite imaging service treats bone-crushing accidents at British rock festival

July 21, 2009

A combination of loud music, alcohol, drugs, and rainy weather churn a dangerous brew that can lead to musculoskeletal injuries. At the U.K.’s mammoth Glastonbury music festival in June they were evaluated with onsite diagnostic imaging services.

A combination of loud music, alcohol, drugs, and rainy weather churn a dangerous brew that can lead to musculoskeletal injuries. At the U.K.'s mammoth Glastonbury music festival in June they were evaluated with onsite diagnostic imaging services.

The muddy fields at Glastonbury are as legendary as the bands that annually play there. Headliners during the June 25 to 28 festival included Lily Allen, Bruce Springsteen, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Lady Gaga, and Jason Mraz, among some 200 bands playing at 24 venues.

Musculoskeletal injuries caused by falls were common. Now festival goers with suspected fractures can have their limbs imaged onsite, rather than being shuttled to the nearest accident and emergency unit.

The imaging service at Glastonbury was started last year at the suggestion of Dr. Mark Regi, a registrar at the Severn Radiology School in Bristol, U.K. Most examinations were performed on a mobile digital radiography system (DRagon, Canon), loaned free of charge by Xograph Healthcare. A basic ultrasound unit was also made available, though this was used less frequently.

Radiology services were provided throughout the five-day festival by seven radiographers who each worked two eight-hour shifts. Four radiologists took turns to report plain films at early morning and evening sessions. Radiologists were also on call in case ultrasound was needed or there were problems.

A total of 93 people were x-rayed during the 2008 festival. The majority of investigations related to musculoskeletal injuries, typically involving the ankle. But several chest x-ray examinations were carried out, too. The ultrasound system was used mainly to view musculoskeletal pathology, occasionally for FAST imaging, and once for echocardiography. All images were copied onto CDs for patients to take away.

Onsite radiography confirmed 36 fractures. Stable fractures were put in plaster casts and dislocated joints relocated. Where the x-rays indicated an unstable fracture, patients were transferred offsite for further treatment.

"We found that the onsite imaging service made a positive difference in 28 patients who would previously have been transferred automatically to hospital," Regi said, during a presentation at this year's U.K. Radiological Congress.

Regi noted that each ambulance trip costs $330, so the availability of onsite services saved more than $9200.

The radiology service was expanded for the 2009 festival and the equipment budget rose from zero to $5000. This year's team comprised six radiologists and as many as 12 radiographers. Ultrasound equipment was provided by Toshiba Medical Systems while a DRagon system was this time loaned by the charity British SuperBikes (BSB).