Washington, May 3 : Assessing the level of tissue damage in patients of osteo-arthritis sports injuries and other conditions affecting bone and cartilage will soon be possible thanks to Queensland University of Technology researchers who have come up with a device called 'smathroscope'.
The device may be able to reduce the cost of surgery, eliminate unnecessary surgery, and could be useful in developing countries, claims Professor Oloyede, who led the team.
This instrument mainly focuses on finding out the degree and spread of damage to the tissue surrounding an area affected by illnesses such as osteo-arthritis, and other conditions which result in cartilage and bone damage.
Other than this, the device would also aid scientists in joint research and for evaluating the effectiveness of established and new methods of joint treatment.
It will prove to be a "decision-maker" for surgeons assessing the damage of tissue surrounding focal cartilage damage, to decide how much cartilage needed to be operated on, and to what extent.
According to Professor Oloyede, currently surgeons heavily rely on a subjective assessment of pictorial information obtained using arthroscopes when treating patients, which do not always give accurate results.
" We want to accurately assess the area of influence of a focal joint defect in a particular condition to determine the optimal amount of tissue to be removed for replacement surgery, and the area to be prepared for other forms of therapy such as those depending on cell-based procedures," he said.
He added: "If we were able to give an exact map of the cartilage and bone in a degenerating joint, they would then know how bad the condition is, and would be able to treat the right area in the right way."
He is hopeful that the instrument could also help in developing countries.
"Out there, they do not have as many surgeons who can carry out arthroscopy and make decisions about joint tissue treatment as we do, but this instrument would reduce the dependence on surgical experience and guide them in the process of managing conditions such as osteoarthritis, avascular necrosis and osteochondritis dessicans," he said.
He claims that a mock-up of the "smarthroscope", which is the subject of a QUT-owned patent, would be ready by mid-2009, and an optimised prototype may be available within three years.