Researchers at the University of Alberta have invented a wireless microsensor, as small as the tip of a pen, for monitoring the bone-healing process after surgery. The device was built using nanotechnology to measure the degree to which bone attaches to a surgical implant (osseointegration), letting doctors know when the joint needs to be replaced. Here’s an excerpt from the university’s site:
“The ability to monitor and quantify this healing process is critical to orthopedic surgeons in determining a patient’s rehabilitation progress,” said Dr. Walied Moussa, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who has a lab in the National Research Council’s National Institute for Nanotechnology, based at the U of A. “Until now, there has been no quantitative method for assessing osseointegration.”
“This microsensor not only reduces post-operation recovery time, it will also help reduce the wait time for patients needing artificial joint implants,” he said.
The sensor will be permanently implanted with the joint and is powered kinetically – it uses the natural movement of the patient’s body as its power source. It stays dormant until a doctor asks it to start transmitting data.
Careful monitoring of how patients are healing will help them recover as quickly as possible and resume normal activities with less chance of stressing the fracture during recovery and rehabilitation. It also allows the surgeon to more accurately decide when it is safe to send patients home from the hospital with their new implants.