US researchers build knitted robotic textile for hand oedema patients

A wearable gadget called KnitDema, created by Cornell University researchers in the US, can help a patient with hand oedema massage swollen areas. The best current treatment for hand oedema, a condition that results in the buildup of extra fluid in the hand as a result of disease or injury, is manual oedema massage (MEM) performed by a qualified therapist. However, for certain patients, the treatment may be unaffordable due to cost and availability to care.

A customised treatment option that can be employed in the patient’s home is provided by KnitDema. A knitted robotic textile called the KnitDema gadget can be worn over one finger. It has knitted material with thread-like shape memory alloy (SMA) springs that are triggered. using a small printed circuit board to sequentially compress and release fluid from the enlarged spot. The degree and degree of SMA spring compression can be altered based on the needs of the specific patient. Participants endured the transition temperature of 45 °C (113 °F), which the springs contract at, without experiencing any discomfort, according to an article by Tom Fleischman for Cornell Chronicle, the weekly publication at Cornell.

The wearable device was created by Cindy (Hsin-Liu) Kao, an assistant professor of human-centered design in the College of Human Ecology, and the director of the Hybrid Body Lab. The technology was created in association with therapists from the Department of Physical Therapy at Cayuga Medical Centre (CMC) and medical professionals from Weill Cornell Medicine.

Judith (Heather) Kim, Kao and a PhD candidate in human-centered design who is also a member of the Hybrid Body Lab tested KnitDema on a silicone-encased, saturated sponge used to represent a finger. In comparison to MEM therapy, the gadget was made to give a more equally distributed compression around the problematic area while also being comfortable and silent.

The KnitDema device offers a snug fit and passive compression even when the actuators are off since it is comprised of a stretchy yarn with hollow pockets for the actuators built in. It is also intended to function as a “personalised rehabilitation device,” which can be prescribed to an outpatient in a manner similar to how medications are prescribed.

Compared to MEM therapy, KnitDema has a number of advantages. It offers a tailored fit and can be used whenever the patient finds it convenient. which is not readily available through standard treatment options on the market.

Kao and Kim credit physical therapists at CMC, particularly Allison Howe, whose certification includes lymphedema, and the physical and occupational therapists at Weill Cornell Medicine for helping with the project.

On April 26, the team unveiled their research findings on KnitDema at the ACM CHI ’23 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems held in Hamburg, Germany. The device offers hope to patients suffering from hand oedema, providing a convenient and personalised solution that can help ease their symptoms.





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