When radiaton therapist Zach Dutton got tired of cobbling together boxes and construction foam from Lowe’s to assist in making the cradle that holds patients immobile during their proton therapy treatments, he decided to solve the problem himself. With the help of his dad, Greg Dutton, he came up with the Z-box, an innovative frame that holds patients in place while their foam cradles are being poured and solidified around them.
The invention has garnered Dutton local headlines in the Knoxville News Sentinel and Loudon County News-Herald (the Duttons are from Lenoir City) as well as a byline in the Spring issue of the medical journal Radiation Therapist. First prototyping the box in plywood, the father-and-son team then crafted a plastic version of the Z-box that patients now regularly use.
The adjustable frame accommodates patients of varying flexibility—they must hold their arms above their heads during the process—and makes it possible for one technician to carry out the process. Prior to the Z-box, at least two people were needed to help hold the patient in place. As a result, what was once a one-and-a-half to two hour process in making the patient cradles, has been whittled down to 30-45 minutes.
While the device works well for proton therapy patients, it also could be used for conventional radiation therapy in cases where the patient needs to be kept still during treatment.
What motivated Dutton to take on the project? “I’ve always thought we could make things better,” he says.