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Saving Back Pain Patients from X-Rays with Electrogoniometer Technology

By Medimaging International staff writers
Posted on 20 Jan 2014
Image: The electrogoniometer serves as a diagnostic device for surgeons or physical therapists, who currently use X-rays to evaluate the progression pre- and post-spinal surgery. The tri-axial electrogoniometer is a battery-powered device, attached to the back by two straps, that displays real time data of every spinal movement in three orthogonal planes. It allows clinicians to evaluate the range of motion of the spine, providing more dynamic and accurate results than X-rays (Photo courtesy of the Stevens Institute of Technology).
Image: The electrogoniometer serves as a diagnostic device for surgeons or physical therapists, who currently use X-rays to evaluate the progression pre- and post-spinal surgery. The tri-axial electrogoniometer is a battery-powered device, attached to the back by two straps, that displays real time data of every spinal movement in three orthogonal planes. It allows clinicians to evaluate the range of motion of the spine, providing more dynamic and accurate results than X-rays (Photo courtesy of the Stevens Institute of Technology).
Patients who have undergone extensive back surgery and who require additional X-rays to track their progress may soon have access to a noninvasive, non-X-ray device that assesses spinal movement, a technology that avoids the X-rays and repeated radiation exposure.

The technology was created and patented by two engineering undergraduate students who recently formed their own company to market the device. The project’s findings describing the technology was published January 3, 2014, in the journal Technology and Innovation—Proceedings of the [US] National Academy of Inventors, and was presented at the Second annual conference of the National Academy of Inventors, hosted by the University of South Florida (Tampa, FL, USA), last February 21–23, 2013.

“Surgical treatment is inevitable for some of the 80% of Americans who at some point in their lives suffer from back pain,” said Kerri Killen, from Versor, Inc. who, with Samantha Music, developed the new technology while they were undergraduate students at Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ, USA). “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 USD 5 billion per year nationwide in healthcare costs.”

According to codeveloper Ms. Music, there are 600,000 spinal surgeries every year in the United States with a yearly exposure of 2,250 mrem of radioactivity per patient before and after surgery. The “electrogoniometer” they developed can be used by surgeons before performing patient surgery and after surgery and also used by physical therapists to further evaluate the progression of a patient’s surgery. The technology can also be used in other orthopedic specialties to reduce both costs and eliminate X-ray exposure.

“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,” explained Ms. 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 added 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 it and can be used during a routine clinical evaluation. “It is comfortable for the patient and efficient, providing immediate and accurate results,” the designers noted.

An additional use for the device, according to the researchers, could be for measuring movement spinal angles and could be used to determine when an injured worker might be able to return to work. By developing new ways to attach the device, different areas of the body can be evaluated for movement, whether hip, shoulder, knee, or wrist.

When Ms.’ Killen and Music developed the electrogoniometer in their senior design class while in undergraduate school at Stevens, they also received mentoring and assistance for establishing a small business to market the device.

Related Links:

Stevens Institute of Technology



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