Saturday, March 10, 2012

Implantable Sensors Developed

A new implantable wireless sensor developed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is able to transmit data from the site of a recent orthopedic surgery. Usually, after an orthopedic procedure, surgeons usually rely on x-rays or MRIs to monitor the progress of their patient’s recovery.

The new sensors can give surgeons detailed real-time information from the actual surgery site. This in-vivo data could lead to more accurate assessments of a patient’s recovery or provide better insight into potential complications.

The wireless sensor measures only 4 millimeters in diameter and 500 microns thick. It doesn’t need a battery or external power and requires no electronics within the body. Instead the sensor is powered by an external device used to capture the sensor data.

The sensors look like small coils of wire and are attached to commonly-used orthopedic musculoskeletal implants such as rods, plates, or prostheses. Once implanted in the in-vivo environment, the sensor can monitor and transmit data about the load, strain, pressure, or temperature of the healing surgery site. The sensor is scalable, tunable, and easy to configure so that it may be incorporated into many different types of implantable orthopedic devices.

One key benefit of the new technology is the possibility of more accurate assessments by physicians to know when recovering patients are able to return to work without a risk of further injury. “Having a stream of real-time in-vivo data should help physicians better decide when a patient has recovered and is ready to return to work”, said Rensselaer faculty researcher Eric Ledet.

Ledet and his research team have filed for patent protection for their new sensor. They currently make each sensor by hand, but the researchers are investigating methods for mass production. Ledet has worked on sensor technology for about five years and has made several presentations on his progress at recent conferences.