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Motion Evaluation Tool Saves Patients with Back-pain from X-ray Radiation Exposure

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Those who have recevied extensive back surgery and require repeated X-rays to observe their progress may soon have access to a new technology that does away with the X-rays and repeated radiation exposure, opting instead for an innovative, noninvasive, non-X-ray device that assess spinal movement.

The technology was created and developed by two engineering undergraduate students who recently founded their own company in a bid to market the device.

The paper describing the novel tool is featured in the current special issue of Technology and Innovation- Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors®, and was presented at the Second Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors® hosted by the University of South Florida, last February 21-23, 2013.

"Surgical treatment is inevitable for some of the 80 percent of Americans who at some point in their lives suffer from back pain. We developed an evaluation device that uses battery powered sensors to evaluate spinal motion in three-dimensions. It not only reduces the amount of X-ray testing patients undergo but also has the potential to save over $5 billion per year nationwide in health care costs,” said Kerri Killen of Versor, Inc. who, along with Samantha Music, developed the new device while they were undergraduate students at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

According to co-developer Music, there are 600,000 spinal surgeries annually in the U.S. with a yearly exposure of 2,250 mrem of radioactivity for every patient prior to and following surgery. The "electrogoniometer" they developed can be used by surgeons before admitting the patient to surgery and after surgery. It can also used by physical therapists to further diagnose the progression of a patient's surgery. Additionally, the technology can also be used in other orthopedic specialties to reduce both costs and remove X-ray exposure.

"The electrogoniometer contains three rotary potentiometers, which are three-terminal resistors with a sliding contact that forms a voltage divider to control electrical devices, such as a rheostat. Each potentiometer measures one of the three spinal movements. It also contains a transducer - a device that converts a signal in one form to energy of another form - to measure the linear displacement of the spine when it curves while bending,” explained Music.

The developers described that the device is "easy to use" and requires basic training for the health professional end-user. The vest-like attachment to a patient eradicates the need for any other special equipment and can be utilized during a routine clinical evaluation. "It is comfortable for the patient and efficient, providing immediate and accurate results," they said.

Furthermore, Music and Killen noted that the device could also be for measuring movement spinal angles and to determine when an injured worker might be able to return to work. By developing innovative ways in which the device is attached to different areas of the body; and can be evaluated for movement, whether it be the hip, shoulder, knee, or wrist.

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