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28 January 2010

Electronic diagnosis under fire

Electronic diagnostic machines: do they work, or are they a scam?

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Electronic diagnostic machines: do they work, or are they a scam?

They're in the news again with "Dr" Rudi Boshoff and his supposed 'miracle machine'. But this is not the first so-called diagnostic machines to hit the news.

Two years ago, the story of a 50-year-old Mpumalanga man who was diagnosed with vaginal abnormalities, hepatitis C and prostate problems caused a stir throughout the country.

The diagnosis, made by a doctor who used a Quantum Xrroid machine, was clearly off target.

The hepatitis C diagnosis (which later turned out to be false) nearly ended the man’s marriage as the doctor had told him he could have got the sexually transmitted disease from his wife. According to Beeld, he also didn’t have a prostate gland anymore; and as to the diagnosis regarding his vagina, well, little more needs to be said.

As a result, medical doctors’ use of frequency-based prognostic devices – which also go under names such as Quantec, Vega and Prognos – has come into question. And not for the first time: in April 2007, the Quantum Xrroid device got bad press on Quackwatch.com.

So, when Health24 user Elsibe Loubser McGuffog opted to try out the Prognos device, we jumped at the chance to investigate the matter further.

Chinese medicine meets western technology
The Prognos seems to be gaining popularity in South Africa, where a number of doctors now use it to diagnose and treat health problems in patients.

According to MedPrevent.de, the website of the German Prognos distributor, the device constitutes a computer-controlled measuring system which incorporates both Chinese medicine and Western technology.

Based on the principles of energy, and more specifically frequency, the device picks up personal health data and prints out a graph, which is indicative of a patient’s health status. The measurements are done by employing the energy pathways of the body (i.e. the meridian system) – a non-invasive procedure that only takes a few minutes to complete.

It’s claimed that the technology allows doctors to test for viruses, bacteria, DNA programming, fungi, parasites, toxic strain, electro smog, scar disturbances, dentition, emotions, chakras, hormones, vitamin requirements and cell communication. It alerts the user to alterations in an organ or meridian before symptoms appear, so that therapeutic intervention can prevent developments.

Its proponents claim that the Prognos was first used during the 1994 Russian MIR flight to control the astronauts’ health. According to the MedPrevent website, “The astronauts... made measurements themselves. Related to the test results and an integrated interpretation and therapies programme, they corrected the disturbances in the meridians by stimulating specific acupuncture spots.”

Insufficient scientific support
While these claims sound pretty impressive, none seem to be backed up by proper scientific research in the form of randomised, double-blind controlled clinical trials. In fact, our search of literature relating to the Prognos device turned out to be rather fruitless.

One of the few references we could find pointed to a study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, which investigated the reliability of the Prognos device in measuring electrical skin resistance at acupuncture points.

Basically the researchers seemed to confirm that the Prognos functions as an ohm meter which accurately reflects resistance on the skin’s surface (relating to specific acupuncture points, in this case).

The authors of another, related study (which, incidentally, contradicted the first) weren’t too optimistic about the device, stating that “caution is warranted when developing, using and interpreting results from electrodermal screening devices”.

And another study, which looked at the diagnosis of amalgam hypersensitivity, found that the Prognos wasn’t useful in the diagnosis of disorders suspected to be due to dental amalgam fillings.

No other references to Prognos-related studies published in peer-reviewed journals could be found.

Peer-reviewed tests critical
Dr Dawie van Velden, a medical doctor with a special interest in holistic wellness, says the device’s use as a diagnostic tool is limited. He says he fails to see how a device that is based on energy systems can, for example, identify the presence of a virus in the body.

“As far as I’m concerned, peer-reviewed tests will have to be done before the device can be approved for use in modern medicine,” Van Velden says.

Interestingly, Global Medical Patent Licensing (GMPL), which distributes the product in South Africa, claims that the device has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But when GMPL was asked for proof of FDA approval, no documentation could be supplied.

Health24 also directly contacted the FDA, which didn’t have it on record that the Prognos had been approved for diagnostic purposes.

The suppliers could, however, prove that the Prognos has been given the “thumbs-up” by the EUROCAT Institute for Certification and Testing.

Only as good as the user?
There seems to be anecdotal evidence that devices such as the Prognos work. Apart from Elsibe’s testimony, another anonymous Health24 user vouched to the fact that diagnosis by means of a frequency-based prognostic device, and the resultant treatment, worked for her.

Furthermore, the Prognos manufacturers claim that the device has been tested for years and that a database of 20 million people is available for comparative study.

Regarding sensational stories of bogus diagnoses, its proponents argue that the equipment is only as good as its users. Martin Hartman, CEO of GMPL, told Elsibe that effective use of the Prognos device depends on a doctor’s good understanding of both mainstream medicine (the binary system, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology) as well as energy medicine, suggesting that a combination of allopathic and homeopathic skill will allow for optimal use.

Would Health24 recommend it?
At this stage, we feel that while the Prognos – and similar devices – probably won’t do any physical harm, value for time and money, and better health, can’t be guaranteed.

Until its reliability has been established, diagnoses by means of these devices lack scientific credibility. Let’s hope that more evidence will be available in future.

(Carine van Rooyen, Health24, updated January 2010)

References:

- Barrett S, M.D. (revised April 2007). Some Notes on the Quantum Xrroid (QXCI) and William C. Nelson. Obtained from the World Wide Web, 3 August 2007
- Colbert AP, Hammerschlag R, Aickin M, McNames J. (2004) Reliability of the Prognos electrodermal device for measurements of electrical skin resistance at acupuncture points. J Altern Complement Med. Aug;10(4):610-6.
- Köhler W, Linde K, Halbach S, Zilker T, Kremers L, Saller R, Melchart D. (2007) Prognos in the diagnosis of amalgam hypersensitivity a diagnostic case-control study. Forsch Komplementarmed. Feb;14(1):18-24. Epub 2007 Mar 6.
- Pearson S, Colbert AP, McNames J, Baumgartner M, Hammerschlag R. (2007) Electrical skin impedance at acupuncture points. J Altern Complement Med. May;13(4):409-18.
- Pienaar A. (2007). Man 'angry with wife's vagina'. Original version published in Beeld. Online version published on News24.com, 30 July 2007
- Van Schijndel, E. (no date supplied) PROGNOS: Space technology traces origins of symptoms. Obtained from the World Wide Web, 3 August 2007

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