When you are travelling in the aircraft, have you heard numerous times about the occurrence of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) if you keep sitting continuously for many hours? You will be advised to take a walk in the aircraft aisles to improve blood circulation. Similarly, bedridden patients and people who are immobile due to injury are often at the risk of developing DVT, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by blood clots forming along the lower extremity veins of the legs.
A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Faculty of Engineering has invented a novel sock that can help prevent DVT and improve survival rates of patients. These robotic socks are equipped with soft actuators that mimic the tentacle movements of corals, and cause natural lower leg muscle contractions in the wearer’s leg. This helps to promote blood circulation throughout the body.
The invention is created by Assistant Professor Lim Jeong Hoon from the NUS Department of Medicine, as well as Assistant Professor Raye Yeow Chen Hua and first-year PhD candidate Mr Low Fanzhe of the NUS Department of Biomedical Engineering.
The sock can be an addition to conventional ankle therapy exercises that therapists perform on patients, thereby optimising therapy time and productivity. The sock can be worn for prolonged durations to provide robot-assisted therapy, on top of the therapist-assisted sessions. The sock is also embedded with sensors to track the ankle joint angle, allowing the patient’s ankle motion to be monitored for better treatment.
Assistant Professor Yeow said, “Given its compact size, modular design and ease of use, the soft robotic sock can be adopted in hospital wards and rehabilitation centres for on-bed applications to prevent DVT among stroke patients or even at home for bedridden patients. By reducing the risk of DVT using this device, we hope to improve survival rates of these patients.”
The scientists want to further investigate the effectiveness of the robotic sock; they will be conducting pilot clinical trials with about 30 patients at the National University. They hope to commercialize the products following further clinical trials.
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