Are you feeling better? How load cells can help assess patient recovery

Published On: September 22 2016
man wheelchair

Helping patients recover for injury, surgery or illness inevitably involves a simple question, “How do you feel today?” The issue is not the question itself but that the answer will inevitably be subjective – “I feel better than yesterday”, for example.


man wheelchairWhilst much patient recovery progress can be measured with snapshots in time, be it an x-ray of a healing fracture or the number of steps taken, the ability to accurately chart improvement over time for all conditions will ultimately benefit the patient and the doctor. We’ve been involved with several medical businesses creating solutions to measure a patient’s progress over time. This is in response to an NHS drive to quantify recovery and rehabilitation.


Weight distribution and gait analysis

One medical company used our load cells in a footplate that analysed weight distribution and therefore offered more insight than the more visual process of gait analysis. This allows healthcare professional such as podiatrists to more accurately assess where issues lie, and improve their products or services such as orthotics accordingly.

If the weight distribution device sounds remarkably like a gaming balance board, it’s no coincidence. In its quest for a more realistic experience, the gaming industry has employed load cells in a whole range of peripherals, from handheld controllers to driving pedals.


Skiing for stroke patients

In one innovative use of gamification, stroke victims are encouraged to use a handheld controller to work their way down a virtual ski slope. The movements required help them retain their muscles, regain balance and improve coordination, without risking injury.

Load cells are also used in restoring grip in the hands, and rebuilding muscles in the forearms. With a load cell fitted hand gripper, healthcare professionals can assess the degree of grip and strength patients are using, and plot progress over time. It’s simple but highly effective, and no doubt helps motivate a patient too.


Robotic surgery

While load cells are vital for the functioning of robotic surgery systems, they are also useful in measuring the impact of the surgical instruments whilst in use. A team of Japanese researchers using the da Vinci surgical system for transoral robotic surgery were concerned that the system’s use might cause accidental tooth injury and lacerations to the mouth. By pressing the instruments involved against load cells and measuring the impact load, the researchers were able to suggest that, due to a slight delay in reaching the maximum load exerted by the endoscope and other instruments, on-site monitoring could prevent injury.


More medical load cell applications

Load cells are already currently in use in a multitude of medical applications, including:

  • Drug delivery systems and infusion pump controls
  • Medical bag and fluid weighing
  • Fitness and rehabilitation equipment
  • Barometric weighing and equipment load assessments
  • Robotic surgery systems

If you require specialist load cells for medical applications, or just want to talk through what might be possible, call us. We have over 20 years in the design, manufacture and application of bespoke load cells. We love nothing more than working with medical researchers and practitioners to solve a unique challenge, using a combination of cutting edge load cell technology and exceptional manufacturing skills.

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