Analyzing someone’s walk reveals much about leg, foot and spine health. Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90
After a fracture or torn ligament, or during the course of osteoarthritis treatment, doctors and physical therapists have no efficient way to monitor progress without access to an expensive and time-consuming gait analysis lab.
Poised to transform the toolbox for orthopedic doctors, and eventually general practitioners, is a new monitoring device being developed in Israel called SensoGo.
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With a sensor attached on each leg, a patient will be able to walk around the doctor’s office, or even take a stroll in the mall, while the device monitors gait and other parameters needed to assess treatments and outcomes –– in a natural way – using built-in gyros and magnetometers.
Tal Anker, the CEO of the one-year-old startup, says the improvement of healthcare in this area could be tremendous because the way we walk is connected to many physical problems in feet, legs, shoulders and back. Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that’s the most common form of arthritis, affects 27 million Americans alone.
Knee issues are a main focus for SensoGo. “Doctors don’t have any way to quantify the problem,” says Anker. “The x-rays can show you have degenerating cartilage and they can see the knee structure is not whole, but what they don’t know is how much this affects [your walk],” he tells ISRAEL21c.
SensoGo data would allow the doctor to determine which knee should be operated on first and how to optimize follow-up after surgery. “If you have to do some physiotherapy, when does the doctor make the decision to start or stop? When can a patient start walking again, and how can doctors monitor if the surgery works?” are the main questions the device could help answer, says Anker.
Gait analysis for the masses
Existing state-of-the-art walking labs are expensive and require at least three hours to half a day of testing, making them inaccessible to most people. Generally speaking, they are valuable for research purposes only.
“An orthopedic doctor started talking with us about gait analysis to know if we could build a portable gait analysis tool,” says Anker, “something that could provide doctors with the basic parameters and results that could be seen within a few minutes while the patient is in the clinic. While you wait, why not strap on some sensors?”
A normal gait requires the left and right legs to be on the ground 40 percent of the time each, while during the remaining 20% of time, both legs are on the ground. Even a 1% deviation is considered abnormal.
And it’s not always easy to understand what accounts for the problem.
SensoGo is being developed as an assessment and monitoring tool at the Misgav-based Mofet B’Yehuda Venture Accelerator. The company could have a product ready in the United States in about 18 months if it can secure an investment of $2 million.
The first target market would be osteoarthritis, followed by sports medicine areas such as Achilles tendon injuries in runners. It’s hard for doctors to know when a patient is ready to walk, let alone run, but the SensoGo tool could help make these hard decisions easier.
The third target market is patients with leg and foot problems caused by diabetes, a chronic problem in the United States and the world over. A portable monitoring system could help doctors pinpoint the start of a problem at a patient’s twice-annual checkouts, preventing extreme and painful outcomes such as amputation.
Eventually, Anker hopes, the SensoGo sensor will perhaps one day be a standard tool in every doctor’s office, “just like a blood pressure cuff or a stethoscope.”