Sound generated by knee joint shows extent of osteoarthritis

29 October 2014

A team led by Lancaster University has developed a technique that uses sound waves and computer software to assess the state of osteoarthritis in the knee.

The large research team includes partners from the University of Central Lancashire, Manchester University, the NHS and industry.

To assess the health of a knee, microphones are attached to it and the high frequency sound waves generated by the knee are recorded as the patient stands up. The sound is then interpreted by software to give information about the health of the knee.

The portable device could eventually be used by GPs, hospital doctors and nurses to assess patients with knee osteoarthritis regularly to see whether the knee is changing or responding to treatment.

Lancaster University’s Professor Goodacre, who is also a consultant rheumatologist, said: “Potentially, this could transform the ways in which knee osteoarthritis is assessed and treated. Unlike an MRI scan, this approach can tell you what happens when the joint moves and it can also measure how the knee is changing over time.”

He said this could herald a new method of medical assessment based on interpreting body sounds.

“Researchers are only just starting to explore the idea of listening to structures like joints, arteries or the intestines and seeing if the sounds they make can tell us about diseases. So this is a new field and the UK is leading in this area.”

The team has received a £560,000 grant from the Medical Research Council and the project will recruit over 200 patients with various types of osteoarthritis so the technique can be further tested.

The project is being delivered through the Lancaster Health Hub, which brings together Lancaster University with the University of Cumbria and NHS organisations throughout Lancashire and Cumbria to work together on clinical research to improve healthcare.

If this new technology proves effective, it will be taken forward into clinical practice through the North West Coast Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), for which Professor Goodacre is medical director. The AHSN is a new organisation established by NHS England with the aim of improving the development and uptake of innovation in the NHS.



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