'Smart' cast wirelessly measures healing, mobility

Most patients wonder what's happening underneath the hard plaster cast covering an injury, but with a new technology recently reviewed by iMedicalApps, they might get a clearer view.

It's called "Bones" (pictured), and it's a futuristic cast threaded with electromyographic (EMG) sensors that track muscle activity around a fracture site. Created by Pedro Nakazato Andrade, a recent graduate of the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, the cast can relay data wirelessly to physicians and physical therapists. It shows how much mobility a patient has in an affected area and how physical therapy and daily activity are affecting the area, allowing clinicians to adjust treatment accordingly.

The software also can suggest exercises to keep the muscles active and the fracture site healing, according to company officials. It also can use the collected data to simulate the rate of recovery time.

"Those familiar with orthopedic fractures, especially post surgery, understand that physical therapy is a huge component of healing," iMedicalApps author Iltifat Husain writes. "Being able to study and tailor physical therapy for patients using this dynamic cast could be huge."

Another new technology could be an interesting complement to the Bones system: a "wearable" antenna that can be sewn into clothing and worn next to the skin to collect biometric data, transmitting that data wirelessly to physicians or other sources.

Ohio State University researchers originally developed the technology for military use, embedding antennas needed for communications into soldiers' clothing. Now, its creators are partnering with a commercial antenna design company to morph the sensors for civilian use, particularly in healthcare. Company officials tell Mobiledia that they see applications in remote patient monitoring, with the antenna making it easier to track vital signs and mobility, and communicate that information to mobile devices or apps.

One final twist to this R&D bonanza: Both of these technologies could be even more interesting if they hook up with a new remote sensing app system from Gentag we told you about a few months ago. Sensors are implanted between the cast or bandages and the skin to measure swelling and temperature, as a way to identify incipient infections. The app then collects the data and transmits it automatically to clinicians for analysis.

To learn more:
- read the iMedicalApps story
- check out Mobiledia's coverage