Wireless sensors may inform doctors about effectiveness of cartilage repair

June 27, 2012

Topic: orthopaedics

Engineers are developing wireless sensors to help doctors assess the effectiveness of cartilage repair.

Biomedical engineers and surgeons from all over the world are working to perfect wireless sensor technology that would measure the amount of physical stress placed on a joint that just underwent cartilage repair. Such a technological advance would potentially help patients who need to be treated for orthopaedics problems such as osteoarthritis.

"The idea of having a device that's designed specifically for a patient, tied to a system that provides dynamic feedback directly to that patient, has tremendous possibilities," said Jennifer Barton, head of the biomedical engineering department at the University of Arizona (UA).

Between 2007 and 2009, about 50 million American adults were diagnosed with osteoarthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number could grow to 67 million by the year 2030.

Orthopaedic surgeons sometimes operate on patients to repair damaged cartilage. A wireless, implantable sensor, such as the one being developed by UA, could help patients and doctors figure out how much physical stress and weight a repaired joint can handle. This would help speed up the recovery process without inflicting any damage to the structures.

A review article of the current state of this technology is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

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