To monitor the real-time performance of bone implants is the challenge of "Smart Hip", an innovative medical device that aims to reduce the number of surgical interventions in the hip area and regenerate bone tissue by using non-evasive methods. The concept's validation - unique in the world and developed by a PHD from the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto -, has already been successfully tested on animals.
It is estimated that today there are about a million surgeries - in Europe and USA - in the hip joint, and that 5% to 10% of these surgeries eventually generates further health problems, which usually demands a new surgery for review. But the solution to this problem may now be closer.
Clara Frias - a 29-year-old PhD in Engineering Sciences from the Faculty of Engineering of University of Porto (FEUP) and researcher at the Institute of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Management (INEGI) - has just created an "intelligent" hip. This worldwide innovative device is able to detect eventual implant's problems through the application of capsules and hip sensors. This will help to stimulate the bone growth and, therefore, improve the quality of life for patients, reducing the risk surgery.
The "Smart Hip" is a network of capsules, measuring sensors and actuators that are placed on the hip implant. Once activated by the doctor - trough a computer connected to a Bluetooth device - the "Smart Hip" components send information that will prevent eventual problems after the surgery and the actuators stimulate the needed bone growth. At this point, the device looks or the implant's validation and development, that monitors its performance in real-time and, additionally, works directly in the bone growth.
In addition, says Clara Frias, "a network of actuators capable of stimulating bone growth at the implant's surface is being developed". This network, as well as the network of sensors, will be externally controlled, trough a wireless system, by a physician. The concept has been validated in a study cell and was recently tested in animals, with "very encouraging results" adds the researcher.
Patented by the University of Porto, the Smart Hip had the collaboration of researchers from the INEGI, in partnership with the Universities of Aveiro, Évora and Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro.