Motion Evaluation Tool for Back Surgery Patients
Patients who have had extensive back surgery typically need repeated X-rays to monitor their progress but a new technology that skips the X-rays and repeated radiation exposure is on the horizon. The method was developed by , opting instead for an innovative, noninvasive, non-X-ray device that evaluates spinal movement. The technology was created and patented by two engineering undergraduate students, Kerri Killen and Samantha Music, at the University of South Florida. The published a paper about their invention in the January 2014 special issue of Technology and Innovation – Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors who recently formed a company called Versor, Inc to market the device.
A release from the university quotes Killen as saying, "Surgical treatment is inevitable for some of the 80 percent of Americans who at some point in their lives suffer from back pain. We developed an evaluation device that uses battery powered sensors to evaluate spinal motion in three-dimensions. It not only reduces the amount of X-ray testing patients undergo but also has the potential to save over $5 billion per year nationwide in health care costs."
According to Music, there are 600,000 spinal surgeries every year in the U.S. with an annual exposure of 2,250 doses of radioactivity per patient before and after surgery. The "electrogoniometer" they developed can be used by surgeons prior before and after surgery and also used by physical therapists. In addition, the technology can be used in other orthopedic specialties to reduce both costs and eliminate X-ray exposure. By developing new ways to attach the device, different areas of the body could be evaluated for movement, whether hip, shoulder, knee, or wrist.
"The electrogoniometer contains three rotary potentiometers, which are three-terminal resistors with a sliding contact that forms a voltage divider to control electrical devices, such as a rheostat. Each potentiometer measures one of the three spinal movements," explains Music. "It also contains a transducer—a device that converts a signal in one form to energy of another form—to measure the linear displacement of the spine when it curves while bending."
The developers add that the device is "easy to use" and requires minimal training for the health professional end-user. The vest-like attachment to a patient eliminates the need for any other special equipment and can be used during a routine clinical evaluation. "It is comfortable for the patient and efficient, providing immediate and accurate results," they add.