Study Highlights Potential of Smart Knee Implants

In a recent study, researchers shared the latest developments in turning a smart knee implant into a reality.

Total knee replacement (TKR) surgery is an increasingly common procedure. If the implant fails, though, patients will require revision surgery. The risk runs particularly high for younger TKR patients, who may sustain their knee injury during sports and want to return to sport postoperatively. Too much wear on the new knee could cause damage, but doctors frequently don’t know how much is too much until it’s too late, and the patient may ultimately need revision TKR surgery.

The smart implant could tackle this problem.

“We are working on a knee implant that has built-in sensors that can monitor how much pressure is being put on the implant so doctors can have a clearer understanding of how much activity is negatively affecting the implant,” said Sherry Towfighian, an assistant professor at Binghamton University and lead principal investigator of the study, in a press release.

Rather than using a battery to power the implant, which would require periodic changing, the team tried using triboelectric energy, a type of friction-generated energy. Energy reaches the triboelectric energy harvester when the patient walks. This friction powers the load sensors. The circuit requires 4.6 microwatts to function, and in testing, the average person’s walk provides 6 power microwatts.

In addition to providing real-time information on the current implant, the device will also help create future implants.

“The sensors will tell us more about the demands that are placed on implants, and with that knowledge, researchers can start to improve the implants even more,” said Towfighian.

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Source: IOP Science

Kaitlyn D’Onofrio is a digital medical writer. She is interested in musculoskeletal health, the effect of exercise on health, and mental health awareness. When she’s not writing for DocWire, Kaitlyn is teaching yoga classes in her community, promoting wellness to her students.