Now, a tool to help fit prosthetic limbs painlessly

May 19th, 2010 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 19 (IANS) A biomedical engineer has developed a new tool to help prosthetic developers fit artificial limbs almost painlessly.
One of its versions also tells medical workers when bed-ridden patients need to be moved to avoid bedsores and other problems.

Amit Gefen, professor at the Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) department of biomedical engineering, has developed the prototype for a new device he calls the Soft Tissue Stress Monitor.

It is designed to ease some of the deep tissue damage and problems suffered by the amputated and infirm.

Gefen has already developed several versions of the monitor around his new core technology.

One of them measures the stress load under the buttocks of a bedridden patient. Installed in a bed or wheelchair, the tool can assess when a load is too heavy and permanent damage might set in.

The results of this new kind of “stress test” can then be sent to a hand-held device like an iPhone to alert the patient or caregiver that an adjustment should be made.

It might even be connected to a tool to automatically stimulate the body or readjust its position.

“We compare the output readings to critical levels in order to discover when a patient’s tissues are at risk for injury,” says Gefen.

Potential injuries include deep tissue ulcers, which can result in painful bedsores. And in extreme cases, if left untreated, bedsores can become fatal.

Gefen’s monitor could also be a boon to limb amputation surgery and the implantation of artificial limbs.

Previously, he determined the best bone structures for surgeons to create when amputating a limb, and the new device can recommend the optimal angles at which reconstructed soft tissues and future artificial limbs will attach comfortably to the stub.

This is especially important because sharp pieces of bone deliver a very intense mechanical load to soft tissues such as muscles, fat and skin, and can cause serious discomfort and pain.

Gefen’s tool helps alleviate the pain in advance by showing doctors how to best adjust the prosthesis and evaluate the performance of different prostheses considered for a given patient, said a university release.

The need for such a monitor is especially urgent in diabetes patients, because many of them lose the sensation of pain altogether in their outer extremities. “These patients simply can’t tell doctors where it hurts,” says Gefen.

These findings were recently published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.

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