Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a portable 3D scanner that can help health workers to rapidly assess patients with elephantiasis, a condition that causes swollen limbs. The scanner allows medical professionals to measure the volume and dimensions of swollen limbs in the comfort of a patient’s home.
Approximately 120 million people worldwide suffer from elephantiasis, a parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes that causes significant swelling and deformity of the legs. At present, health workers assess the severity of the disease using a measuring tape to determine the dimensions of the limb, but this is cumbersome and difficult to standardize as the skin can be bumpy and uneven because of the swelling.
The current gold-standard assessment technique involves patients submerging each leg in a water bath, and based on the volume of water they displace, doctors can calculate the volume of the legs. However, this approach is impractical in the home, and requires a visit to a clinic or hospital, something that can be difficult for swollen patients and those in remote, low-resource settings.
The Washington University team developed a small infrared sensor that can be mounted onto a tablet computer. The system uses technology similar to that found in some video game systems, which allow gamers to control a game using gestures and body movements. The device can rapidly scan a patient’s legs, and produce a virtual 3-D reconstruction of the legs.
The software can calculate leg dimensions and volumes at least as accurately as the tape measure or water bath techniques. “The most encouraging news is that the scanner produced highly accurate results in only a fraction of the time of the other tests,” said Philip Budge, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University.
“The scanning tool also offers convenience,” said Budge. “Many patients with swollen limbs often have great difficulty traveling from their homes to the clinic to have their measurements taken. The scanner should make it possible to take extremely accurate limb measurements in the patients’ homes or villages, without cumbersome equipment or inconveniencing patients.”
Study in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene: Use of a Novel Portable Three-Dimensional Scanner to Measure Limb Volume and Circumference in Patients with Filarial Lymphedema…