Here at the University of Southampton our Institute for Life Sciences draws expertise and experience from various scientific areas in order to conceive and develop rehabilitation technologies that have the potential to vastly improve quality of life for people everywhere.
Our rehabilitation technology research typically sees researchers from healthcare backgrounds and engineering backgrounds joining forces to pool their knowledge and abilities. As a result, this research collective can achieve much more than they possibly could in isolation within their particular disciplines.
The Institute for Life Sciences' rehabilitation technologies research group is officially known as ”˜Health Technologies in Assistive, Adaptive and Rehabilitation Technologies'. The researchers within the group comprise: Dr Liudi Jiang, Professor Dan L Bader, Dr Alex Dickinson, Professor Jane Burridge, Professor Ann Ashburn, Dr Maggie Donovan-Hall, Mr Peter Richard Worsley, Dr Cheryl D Metcalf and Professor David Owen Norris.
One area of rehabilitation technology on which our researchers are working is ”˜Lower limb prosthesis'. That's partly because there are over 65,000 amputees and 700,000 wheelchair users in the UK who rely on assistive equipment to ensure their mobility, independence, and quality of life.
Poor equipment fittings can lead to discomfort, pain and further health issues. For example, for lower limb amputees, prosthetic socket fit and its comfort/ compliance to the residual stump is the most important concern of any prosthesis user. Yet to date, limited tools and knowledge is available for objective assessment.
To address this need our interdisciplinary rehabilitation technologies team encompassing platform technologies in sensor/actuators, engineering materials, tissue health, and computational engineering was established. With their industrial partners, Blatchfords, these rehabilitation technology researchers have recently secured MRC Biocatalyst funding to develop an instrumented liner for direct use on the stump tissues of amputees. And that's not all...
An alternative bioengineering approach to examine socket shapes using hand-held 3D surface scanners and reverse engineering techniques is also in development. These approaches are being used to examine the influence of surface patterning upon shape registration and extraction.
In addition, our rehabilitation technology researchers have developed a MATLAB code to post-process scan data and evaluate method accuracy and repeatability. These data will provide a robust platform to establish a statistical model of amputee stump shape. Collected data will have direct uses in soft tissue modelling and research into the influence of surgical techniques, contributing to the creation of a multi-patient dynamic computational model, predicting the biomechanical adaptations to below-knee amputation.
Another area of rehabilitation technology research at Southampton is our work into the adoption of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) technologies. Although FES has proved to be effective for several symptoms in people with Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI), it is only used by a small proportion of the SCI community. An interdisciplinary team including a health psychologist is currently carrying out a questionnaire study funded by INSPIRE organisation.
This rehabilitation technology project is exploring the views on the current and future use of FES of people with spinal cord injury, healthcare professionals and researchers. Three questionnaires have been developed and been through a process of cognitive interviewing and validation. The next stage is to expand the recruitment of participants with SCI, healthcare professionals and specialist researchers.
To discover other examples of rehabilitation technology
research at the University of Southampton, go to www.southampton.ac.uk/rht