Researchers in the US have developed a knitted wearable tool to treat swelling in the hand caused by excess fluid accumulation.
The hand oedema tool, called KnitDema, has been devised by researchers at Cornell University and can be personalised and used at home
Currently, the best treatment for hand oedema is manual oedema massage by a trained therapist, but access to care and cost can make the procedure prohibitive.
Cindy (Hsin-Liu) Kao, assistant professor of human-centred design and director of the Hybrid Body Lab, and her team worked with physicians and therapists to devise the knitted wearable technology that can gently massage the swollen area through sequential compression by small robotic actuators.
They chose to focus on hand oedema, particularly swelling of the fingers “because it’s a condition that affects a lot of people and can have significant impact to activities of daily living, since finger mobility is indispensable in our day-to-day lives,” Kao said.
The lab first tested KnitDema on a simulated finger (a saturated sponge encapsulated in silicone) before trying it on patients at Cayuga Medical Center.
Participants generally rated the device as comfortable to wear, quiet and offering more evenly dispersed compression around the swollen area compared to MEM treatment.
Kao sees KnitDema as a personalised rehabilitation device that could be prescribed to an outpatient like a medicine.
“Instead of having to schedule a hard-to-get visit with a therapist for MEM, we envision this as something that people could take home with them.
“They would go to their rehab doctor and their occupational or physical therapist once, and at that session they would be able to configure the right amount of compression for daily use, then adjust as necessary.”
Dr. Joan Stilling, assistant professor of clinical rehabilitation medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine, added:
“It also allows for use any time that is convenient for the patient – often when symptoms are worst for the individual.
“In addition, each device is personalised for each person through the digital machine knitting, allowing for a customised fit, which is not readily available through standard treatment options on the market.”
Image: Hybrid Body Lab (YouTube)