Healing from a broken bone can be a laborious process for patients and doctors alike. Physicians must rely on periodic X-rays or MRIs to track the progress of such injuries and even these costly tests don't provide insight as to whether a person can fully return to work or begin exercising again.
Now, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hope to end the guessing game with an implantable sensor that can wirelessly transmit data from the site of a recent orthopedic surgery.
Unlike X-rays and MRIs, the sensor is inexpensive and highly reliable. The device would give surgeons detailed information straight from the site of a healing bone, allowing for more accurate recovery assessments. With such a tool, doubts surrounding the safety of removing a cast or returning to an exercise program would be laid to rest.
The implantable tool is tiny—measuring only four millimeters in diameter and 500 microns thick. Powered only by an external device that can also capture data, the sensor requires no battery, no external power and no electronics within the body.
"Our new sensor will give surgeons the opportunity to make personalized, highly detailed, and very objective diagnoses for individual patients," said the instrument's creator, Eric Ledet. "The simplicity of the sensor is its greatest strength."
While Ledet and his colleagues currently make every sensor by hand, the team is exploring methods for mass production and has recently filed for patent protection for the device.
Image: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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