US researchers create a knitted robotic textile for patients with hand oedema

US researchers create a knitted robotic textile for patients with hand oedema

Cornell University researchers in the United States have created KnitDema, a wearable gadget that can assist massage of swollen portions of a patient with hand oedema. Hand oedema is a disorder that causes an accumulation of extra fluid in the hand as a result of an accident or disease, and the best current treatment is manual oedema massage (MEM) performed by a qualified therapist. However, for certain individuals, access to treatment and cost may make the surgery prohibitively expensive.

KnitDema provides a potentially customized solution that may be employed in the comfort of a patient’s own home. KnitDema is a knitted robotic textile that may be worn on a single finger. Thread-like shape memory alloy (SMA) springs are weaved into the knitted material and actuated by a small-printed circuit board to compress successively and move fluid out of the swelling region. The degree and strength of SMA spring compression can be adjusted based on the needs of the individual patient. According to an article by Tom Fleischman for Cornell Chronicle, Cornell’s weekly newspaper, the transition temperature at which the springs shrink was 45 °C (113 °F), which subjects accepted without pain.

The wearable device was created by Cindy (Hsin-Liu) Kao, assistant professor of human-centered design at the College of Human Ecology and head of the Hybrid Body Lab, and her team. The technology was created in partnership with physicians from Weill Cornell Medicine and therapists from Cayuga Medical Center’s Department of Physical Therapy.

Heather (Jin Hee) Kim, a Ph.D. student in human-centered design and a member of the Hybrid Body Lab, and Kao tested KnitDema on a simulated finger (a saturated sponge encased in silicone). In comparison to MEM therapy, the gadget was developed to give a more pleasant and silent experience while delivering more equally distributed compression throughout the afflicted region.

The KnitDema device is constructed of elastic yarn with hollow pockets built in for the actuators, providing a snug fit and passive compression even when the actuators are turned off. It is also intended to be a “personalized rehabilitation device,” comparable to medication, that may be supplied to an outpatient. KnitDema has several advantages over MEM therapy. It may be used whenever it is convenient for the patient and provides a personalized fit that is not easily accessible with regular treatment choices on the market.

Kao and Kim attribute the effort to physical therapists at CMC, notably Allison Howe, whose qualification covers lymphedema, as well as physical and occupational therapists at Weill Cornell Medicine. The team presented their study findings on KnitDema on April 26 at the ACM CHI ’23 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Hamburg, Germany. The gadget gives patients with hand oedema hope by delivering a simple and tailored treatment that can help alleviate their symptoms.

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