Implantable Sensors Will Keep Wireless Tabs on Mending Bones

As your shattered femur recovers from that horrendous planking injury and subsequent orthopedic surgery, doctors usually need to take numerous x-rays to monitor the healing process. That is, unless the surgeons implant a tiny diagnostic sensor alongside the various metal bits in your leg.

Developed by a team from New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the minuscule sensor measures four millimeters wide by 500 microns thick. It is designed to provide doctors with real-time data—including load, strain, motion, temperature, and pressure measurements—wirelessly and without the need for an attached power supply. Instead, it's powered remotely by the device reading it, much like an RFID tag.

The sensor's small stature also enables it to mount directly onto a medical implant virtually anywhere in the body. "By maintaining a simple platform, we're able to customize the sensor and make it very, very small so it can be incorporated into a lot of different implants," said Rebecca Wachs of the RPI. "By changing one small parameter, we can change the sensitivity of the sensor itself."

The device is currently in the prototype phase and assembled by hand. However, once mass-produced, it could become a standard tool in orthopedic procedures. [ORS via Gizmag]

Image: xpixel / Shutterstock