Mobile Sensor May Curb Diabetic Foot Amputations

Researchers at the University of Arizona are optimistic that a new high tech senor embedded in a boot can help reduce the rate of diabetic related foot amputations, primarily by reminding patients to wear the boot itself.

Thanks to a $400,000 National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research grant, the University of Arizona and a small business partner (BioSensics of Cambridge, Massachusetts) have teamed up to develop a sensor that is capable of alerting study participants when they neglect to wear the prescribed footwear.

“People sometimes don’t realize how important it is to wear it,” explains Dr. Bijan Najafi, Associate Professor of Surgery in the UA Department of Surgery. “Maybe they think they are walking just a few steps around the home, and they don’t need it.”

The interactive sensor technology created for the removable cast walker measures the cast activity. Worn in conjunction with a ‘smart’ textiles shirt, the sensors monitor a person’s activity. Data from the shirt and the sensor will evaluate whether the patient is wearing the footwear as prescribed.

“If you forget to wear the removable cast walker, the sensor alerts a watch you are wearing,” said Dr. Najafi, a biomedical engineer. “The watch will buzz to let the participant know they are not wearing the boot.”

Every year, thousands of patients afflicted by a wide variety of conditions and ailments require follow-up care due to an inability to follow prescribed medical treatments. This alarmingly frequent phenomenon may be curtailed dramatically as mHealth technologies like the sensor described above become mainstream.

Every 20 seconds in the world, a limb is lost to diabetes, Dr. Najafi says. “It’s very problematic but very preventable.”

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