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ME Scholars developed novel testing system for diabetic foot patient

Scholars of The Department of Mechanical Engineering have joined hands to develop a novel testing system for palpation of diabetic foot patient. The invention has been recently issued a patent by the United States Patent Office.

Co-invented by Prof. Wallace Leung, Chair Professor of Innovative Products & Technologies and Prof. Alan Lau, Alex Wong/Gigi Wong Professor in Product Design Engineering, the “Automatic Testing for Palpation of Diabetic Foot Patient” system is developed for assessment of nervous connectivity or nerve degradation for patients suffering from diabetes or neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction. 

Manual palpation on the body part and observing extent of bending of the test filament has been conventional practice that is subject to human error and inaccuracy. The downside to this simple assessment is that physicians might miss the correct diagnostic or assessment resulting in unnecessary amputation of patients. This novel technology uses automatic palpation in three-dimensional space for patients, such as diabetic patients, for which nerve degradation is tested. The standard testing can be implemented through a robotic device on all patients and the test can accurately locate systematically the existence of degraded nerves in the foot, or human musculoskeletal system, before they deteriorate.

Diabetic and musculoskeletal dysfunction patients suffer commonly from nerve degradation that needs to be assessed and treated early to prevent the worst case of losing their body part by amputation. This patent discloses an invention of a system for an automated palpation testing of a patient, including the use of a robotic device with an actuating element replacing the filament. The system is useful for testing patients at risk of nerve degradation, such as diabetic and musculoskeletal dysfunction sufferers. The system includes a controller for programming the robotic device to administer the test in a particular pattern, and a storage medium for storing the results of the test.  The system allows a more accurate determination of the stage of nerve degradation, as well as being able to conduct a more standardized test because of adopting an automation technology. The 3-dimensional spatial probing allows the probe to follow the complex contour of the human body thus accurately tracing out the degraded nerves.  The invention can facilitate comparison between the past and present assessment results (data logged by computer and can be retrieved and compared) so that the condition of the patient can be follow through longitudinally over time, which is practically impossible with conventional practice.