Current ways of detecting infections in prostheses require patients to undergo burdensome imaging procedures, such as an MRI, CAT scan, or X-rays. Engineers at the University of California, San Diego have developed a new, non-invasive way of providing amputees with quantitative, diagnostic-relevant information about the extent and locations of the infection.
The enhanced electrical capacitance tomography (ECT) imaging method measures the human tissue and prosthesis’ electrical properties, using safe electrical fields. An algorithm processes the data, allowing physicians to reconstruct a predetermined area’s electrical characteristics. Infection causes changes in the field, which can be detected via ECT.
Ken Loh, a professor of structural engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, and Ph.D. student Sumit Gupta refined the algorithm and developed a thin-film sensor that could be sprayed onto a prosthesis to improve the imaging technique’s ability to detect infection. Loh envisions thin-film sensors coated onto prostheses, where each layer detects different signals that indicate various conditions, such as stresses, loosening, and pH changes.