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For orthopedic injuries, a robot that follows patients as they move

The MRI and CT scan may one day have a robotic cousin capable of following and peering into patients as they move around.

A University of Florida engineer has designed a robot to shadow and shoot X-ray video of sufferers of orthopedic injuries as they walk, climb stairs, stand up from a seated position or pursue other normal activities and maybe even athletic ones like swinging a bat.

UF mechanical and aerospace engineer Scott Banks' goal is to augment static images of patients' bones, muscles and joints with an interior view of these and other parts in action during normal physical activity. By merging such full-motion X-rays with computerized representations, orthopedic surgeons will make better diagnoses, suggest more appropriate treatments and get a clearer idea of post-operative successes and failures, he said.

"Our goal is come up with a way to observe and measure how joints are moving when people are actually using them," Banks said. "We think this will be tremendously powerful, not only for research but also in the clinical setting as well."

Complaints about orthopedic injuries are among the most common reasons people visit the doctor, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. More than 8 million people were hospitalized in 2003 for musculoskeletal conditions or injuries, which are estimated to cost the United States at least $215 billion annually.

Orthopedic surgeons have long diagnosed patients by touch or with static X-rays, MRI and CT scans. They also may use X-ray video, but current technologies provide only a tight view of a very limited range of motion in a controlled laboratory setting.

While all of these techniques can be effective, they do not work well with injuries that manifest themselves when a joint is in motion, Banks said. These include, for example, injuries to the patella, or kneecap, and injuries of the shoulder. Surgeons sometimes have to operate to diagnose these and othe
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Contact: Scott Banks
banks@ufl.edu
352-392-6109
University of Florida
20-Jan-2006


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