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Tiny sensor transmits data from orthopedic implants

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February 16, 2012

Scientists have developed a tiny sensor that could wirelessly transmit data on the status ...

Scientists have developed a tiny sensor that could wirelessly transmit data on the status of orthopedic implants, like this one (Photo via Shutterstock)

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In order to determine how a patient is recovering from orthopedic surgery, doctors must presently rely on technologies such as X-rays or MRIs. Before too long, however, they may instead simply be able to read the output from tiny sensors, implanted in the patient's body. A team of scientists from New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have already created prototypes of just such a device, that measure a mere four millimeters across and are 500 microns thick.

A couple of the implantable sensors, with scale in millimeters at the top of the image (Ph...

The sensors require no wires, batteries, or telemetry within the body. The idea is that an individual device would be attached to a conventional orthopedic implant, which would then be installed as it normally would be, within the body. After that point, the sensor could monitor and wirelessly transmit data regarding load, strain, motion, temperature, and pressure, from the site of the implant.

This data could allow doctors to determine when it was safe for the patient to return to work, and could also alert them to problems with the implant.

The Rensselaer team is currently producing the sensors by hand, but are looking towards mass-production, which should bring their cost down. It will be interesting to see if the technology compliments or competes with the Ortho-Tag system, in which a hand-held probe is used to read data transmitted by a radio-frequency chip, which is attached to an orthopedic implant.

Source: Orthopaedic Research Society

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
1 Comment

That image of a left femur needs to be turned clockwise 90 degrees!

Dave Maguire
17th February, 2012 @ 05:19 pm PST
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