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10-09-2012 | Physical rehabilitation | Article

‘Clever’ carpet could help prevent falls

Abstract

Meeting website

medwireNews: A "clever" carpet made up of plastic optical fibers could help prevent falling in elderly patients or those learning to walk again after injury, say researchers.

Presenting the research at the Photon 12 conference in Durham, UK, Patricia Scully (University of Manchester, UK) explained that the team hopes the carpet will serve a dual purpose: both alerting medical staff quickly if a patient falls, and helping physiotherapists to identify how a person's gait could be improved to help reduce their risk for falling.

The carpet is able to map someone's gait using a mesh of optical fibers that is sensitive to the pressure and shape of weights placed on it. Measurements are taken using light-emitting diodes and photodiodes, which relay information to a computer that can then reconstruct images using the iterative Landweber technique.

Previous work by Scully and co-investigators using an initial version of the carpet has focused on imaging surface deformation by four-projection measurements of transmission.

The current research targeted the dynamic imaging of human footprints using a slightly different prototype with only three tomographic projections and only two fibers crossing at any point to minimize bending-induced background noise.

"The carpet can gather a wide range of information about a person's condition; from biomechanical to chemical sensing of body fluids, enabling holistic sensing to provide an environment that detects and responds to changes in patient condition," Scully told the press.

"The carpet can be retrofitted at low cost, to allow living space to adapt as the occupiers' needs evolve - particularly relevant with an aging population and for those with long-term disabilities - and incorporated non-intrusively into any living space or furniture surface such as a mattress or wall that a patient interacts with," she added.

The team hopes that their technology, which is still in a fairly early stage of development, will help to reduce the number of falls sustained by community-dwelling older adults. This is currently the most frequent serious accident occurring in the home and accounts for 50% of hospital admissions in the over 65s.

medwireNews (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Helen Albert, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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