US researchers have discovered a non-invasive elastography technique that may help diagnose the neuromuscular disease without exposing patients to radiation.
The technique found by California based Scripps Institute of Oceanography researchers works by measuring 'muscle noise' to reveal a patient's condition.
Karim Sabra and colleagues at the institute placed 16 sensors, each 1.5 centimetres apart, along the thigh of a healthy male volunteer while attaching increasing loads to his ankle. This enabled them to measure the vibrations produced by his vastus lateralis thigh muscle under different stresses.
With the help of this sensor array, the researchers measured the velocity of vibrations depending on the muscle stiffness as the weight increased, and created a comprehensive picture of the muscle's elastic properties under different conditions.
Sabra is of the opinion that analysing more muscles and building up a database of vibration responses may help monitor the progression of muscular diseases.
The key advantage of the new technique is that it does not require external sources—like indentation or ultrasound—to produce the propagating waves.
The researchers believe that their method may be complementary to X-rays and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), as it gives quantitative information about the muscle's mechanical properties. They, however, maintain that it may be also be used alone, eliminating the need for radiation altogether.
Sabra says that the new technique may also be used to monitor sports injuries, such as pulled tendons, reports the New Scientist.
The researchers are now planning to conduct further research to study how to improve the accuracy of the technique.