'Second Skin' Sensors to Prevent Pain for Amputees

Adie Blanchard | 2014-05-27 04:51:14

A new type of pressure sensor has been developed, aiming to prevent pain and sores for those who wear artificial limbs.

The sensor looks similar to that of a postage stamp, having been dubbed a ‘second skin’ due to its thin and flexible nature. The sensor is taped to a cushioned layer between the stump and artificial limb, where it collects information which is then sent to researchers and clinicians. The data is then interpreted and any necessary adjustments to the fit of the artificial limb can be made.

In the future the sensors could even be incorporated into smartphone technology to alert the wearer that they may need to add extra padding, or whether they require a further assessment.

Unlike other pressure sensors which are already being used to detect pressure, they can also detect rubbing at the limb. This is especially important as many amputees have nerve damage and reduced skin sensation, which may impair their ability to identify pain or discomfort in the first place. These sensors could therefore be vital in early detection to prevent soft tissue damage and infection, which can lead to further complications.

The sensors could also be used to help others at risk, including wheelchair users and those who are bed bound. The sensors could even be applied to insoles of shoes for those with diabetes.

Although the technology won’t be available to UK NHS patients for another three years, it could certainly help to prevent pain, sores and further complications in those who wear prosthetic limbs.

Adie Blanchard – Researcher