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UK Researchers Work to Develop “Intelligent” Prosthetic Liners with Integrated Pressure Sensors

Researchers at the UK-based University of Southampton are reportedly developing a prototype of a prosthetic “intelligent” liner with integrated pressure sensors.

Liudi Jiang, BEng, MEng, PhD, MAIAA, and an interdisciplinary team invented the sensors for the device, according to a news release from university. The sensors are engineered to measure the pressure and pulling forces at the interface between a patient’s stump and socket of their prosthesis.

Team member Dan Bader, BSc, MSc, PhD, DSc, an expert in tissue biomechanics and developing sensors designed to assess skin health, explains that, “Mechanical forces during physical activities of the amputee can lead to breakdown of soft tissues at the stump, which can prove very difficult to heal and will inevitably result in distress for the patient.”

“If we had a simple way to accurately measure the load at the socket-stump interface and determine the best possible fit for that limb, it would completely transform the socket fit experience for amputees,” Jiang says.

Jiang adds that the researchers are hoping that the intelligent liner will serve as the first step toward a fully automatic, self-adjusting smart socket interface for amputees.

The release notes that the intelligent liner is intended to allow clinicians to quickly and accurately assess and optimize socket fit for patients from the beginning. The wireless interface will also be designed to monitor changes to socket fit over time, notifying patients of the need to adjust the socket or their activities to prevent the development of pressure ulcers. Scientists also state in the release that the technology could help form the basis for other intelligent materials in the future, such as shoe insoles to protect against diabetic foot ulcers, or mattresses and wheelchairs that protect against pressure ulcers in immobile or older adult patients.

The researchers will work with Chas A Blatchford & Sons Ltd in order to refine the design and develop the sensor into a variety of thin prosthetic liners to fit sockets of any shape and size.

David Moser, BEng, BSc, PhD, Head of Research, Chas A Blatchford & Sons Ltd, calls the project “tremendously exciting,” and adds, “We anticipate that from the development of this technology we will reach a new level of understanding and uncover the as yet unclear ‘dynamic’ qualities of limb loading and socket fit. This step is crucial for the development of the next generation of socket technology products and future artificial limb controls.”

[Source: University of Southampton]