Dr Lisa Macintyre & Prof Mark DesDesmulliez
Compression hosiery is used for a variety of medical conditions including varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, lymphoedema, etc, yet current offerings are both functionally and aesthetically inadequate for many patients. The market for these products is large and growing (due to an ageing population, increasing incidence of obesity, diabetes, air travel, etc.).
The existing British Standard test method for evaluating the functionality of compression hosiery is limited, arcane and does not meet clinicians’ needs. Most pressure sensors used in a clinical environment for monitoring treatment are ‘balloon transducer’ type devices, which are invasive and often unreliable. Tekscan’s recent thin resistive ink sensor is less invasive but requires skills in calibration and measurement making it unsuitable for clinical use by non-experts. Their reliability is also questionable on tight radii of curvature. Pliance X sensors appear to be much improved on other systems but are prohibitively expensive and have only been evaluated for static measurements.
This project aims to develop an accurate, reliable, thin, affordable pressure sensor based on microsystems technologies (MEMS). The sensor will be optimised for measuring low interface pressures (0-150 mmHg) and will be either applied onto model or human legs. The resulting device will be used to evaluate existing compression hosiery products and develop improved products for a wide range of medical conditions. We also aim to apply such sensors in sportswear, corsetry, etc., which will be the topic of EPSRC, EECE or TSB research funding proposals.
Until affordable pressure measurement technology is improved, the development and validation of medical (and other) compression products is seriously hampered. Therefore, this project is key to developing this research area and to our research output strategy.