To monitor the real-time performance of bone implants is the challenge of "Smart Hip," an innovative medical device that aims to reduce the number of surgical interventions in the hip area and regenerate bone tissue by using non-evasive methods. The device -- developed by an engineering doctoral student from the University of Porto in Portugal -- has already been successfully tested on animals.
It is estimated that today there are about a million hip joint surgeries in Europe and USA, and that 5% to 10% of these surgeries eventually generate further health problems, which usually requires additional surgery. But a solution to this problem may now be closer.
Clara Frias -- a 29-year-old PhD in Engineering Sciences from the Faculty of Engineering of University of Porto (FEUP) and researcher at the Institute of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Management (INEGI) -- created this "intelligent" hip device in order to detect an implant's eventual problems and to stimulate bone growth, thus improving the quality of life for patients and reducing the risk of further surgery.
The Smart Hip is a network of capsules, measuring sensors and actuators that are placed on the hip implant. Once activated by the doctor -- through a computer connected to a Bluetooth device -- the "Smart Hip" components send information that can help prevent eventual problems after surgery.
In addition, says Clara Frias, "a network of actuators capable of stimulating bone growth at the implant's surface is being developed." This network, as well as the network of sensors, will be externally controlled through a wireless system by a physician. The concept has been validated in cell studies and was recently tested in animals -- with "very encouraging results," adds the researcher.
Patented by the University of Porto, the Smart Hip was developed in collaboration with researchers from the INEGI, in partnership with the Universities of Aveiro, Évora and Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro.
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