A system that documents a knee patient's healing process in detail has been developed by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart.
This motivates patients and at the same time helps doctors to fine-tune the course of treatment.
It shows patients as well as medical staff how the joint is doing. "It not only lets sufferers see how their healing process is coming along; it also means doctors can tell straight away whether they need to adapt the treatment," says Dipl.-Ing. Bernhard Kleiner of Fraunhofer IPA. "This can give patients a psychological boost." They might not feel they are getting any better, but the system highlights every little improvement in knee mobility. "And that's very motivating," says Kleiner.
This is how the novel approach for monitoring the treatment works: 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.
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.
Depending on the injury and treatment, the system not only records the joint's range of movement but can also determine to what degree it rotates and what forces are acting upon it. The sensors observe movements and store data non-stop. This allows doctors to observe how the knee's range of movement changes over time, so they can recognize trends and, where necessary, adjust the treatment.