Currently when a patient injures a knee, there is no qualitative way for doctors to monitor progress as the joint heals. A team of researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA claim they have created a system which will change this, and will allow doctors to keep track of how quickly the joint is healing. The researchers placed a number of sensors around the affected knee which measured the joint’s range of motion over time to determine whether or not the joint was healing properly. While the system was only tested on knees, the researchers hope to eventually adapt it for use on other joints, including shoulders and hips.
From the press release:
Special sensors are placed in a kind of bracket that is integrated into the bandage. These register the knee’s range of movement over a period of time to determine exactly how patients are moving their knee. A new piece of software evaluates these data and presents them in an easy-to-understand format. It sounds pretty simple but it was a tough challenge for the engineers, because such angular measurement systems have only ever been used in industry up to now. The central question was how to place the sensors onto the human body without inconveniencing the patient. The answer, researchers found, lay in using lightweight materials and miniaturizing the sensors, which fall into two categories: angular measurement systems that are based on magnetic principles; and acceleration and rate-of-rotation sensors.