Osseosurface electronic devices, which attach directly to the bone, could one day help monitor bone health. (Credit: Gutruf Lab)

An ultra-thin wireless device grows to the surface of bone and could someday help physicians monitor bone health and healing over long periods. The devices, called osseosurface electronics, could provide patients with individualized orthopedic care — with the goal of accelerating rehabilitation and maximizing function after traumatic injuries.

The device’s thin structure, roughly as thick as a sheet of paper, means it can conform to the curvature of the bone, forming a tight interface. They also do not need a battery. This is possible using a power casting and communication method called near-field communication, or NFC.

A doctor could attach the device to a broken or fractured bone to monitor the healing process. This could be particularly helpful in patients with conditions such as osteoporosis since they frequently suffer refractures. Knowing how quickly and how well the bone is healing could also inform clinical treatment decisions, such as when to remove temporary hardware like plates, rods, or screws.

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