A new wearable ultrasound monitor could speed up the recovery from muscle injuries.
Millions of people – from Premier League footballers to weekend joggers – suffer musculoskeletal injuries every year.
However, the recovery process can often be long and difficult.
Patients typically undergo rehabilitation, slowly rebuilding muscle strength as their injuries heal.
Medical professionals routinely evaluate a patient’s progress via a series of tasks and exercises.
But because of the dynamic nature of the exercises, medics say obtaining a clear picture of real-time muscle function has been challenging until now.
Dr. Parag Chitnis, of George Mason University, led a team that has developed a wearable ultrasound system that can produce clinically relevant information about muscle function during dynamic physical activity.
He explained that several medical technologies can give doctors a window into the inner workings of a patient’s body, but few can be used while the patient is moving.
However, a wearable ultrasound monitor can move with the patient and provide an unprecedented level of insight into body dynamics.
Dr. Chitnis said: “For instance, when an individual is performing a specific exercise for rehabilitation, our devices can be used to ensure that the target muscle is actually being activated and used correctly.
“Other applications include providing athletes with insights into their physical fitness and performance, assessing and guiding recovery of motor function in stroke patients, and assessing balance and stability in elderly populations during routine everyday tasks.”
However, designing a wearable ultrasound device took much more than simply strapping an existing ultrasound monitor to a patient.
Dr. Chitnis and his team reinvented ultrasound technology nearly from scratch to produce the results they needed.
He said: “We had to completely change the paradigm of ultrasound imaging.
“Traditionally, ultrasound systems transmit short-duration pulses, and the echo signals are used to make clinically useful images.
“Our systems use a patented approach that relies on transmission of long-duration chirps, which allows us to perform ultrasound sensing using the same components one might find in their car radio.”
Dr. Chitnis says the modified approach allowed the team to design a simpler, cheaper system that could be miniaturized and powered by batteries, allowing them to design an ultrasound monitor with a small, portable form factor that could be attached to a patient.
He hopes to further improve the device and develop software tools to more quickly interpret and analyze the ultrasound signals.
Dr. Chitnis is due to present his work as part of the Acoustics 2023 conference in Sydney, Australia.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker