Novel Multimodal Sensing Systems for Wearable Knee Health Assessment
Teague, Caitlin Nicole
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Wearable technologies for healthcare represent a popular research area, as they can provide quantitative metrics during rehabilitation, enable long-term, at-home monitoring of chronic conditions, and facilitate preventative—versus reactive—medical interventions. Moreover, their low cost makes them accessible to broad subject populations and enables more frequent measures of biomarkers. Such technologies are particularly useful for areas of medicine where the diagnostic or evaluation tools are expensive, not readily available, or time consuming. Orthopedics, in particular joint health assessment, is an area where wearable devices may provide clinicians and patients with more readily available quantitative data. The objective of this research is to investigate wearable, multimodal sensing technologies to facilitate joint health and rehabilitation monitoring, ultimately providing a “joint health score” based on evaluation of joint acoustics, electrical bioimpedance, inertial measures, and temperature data. This joint health score may be employed in various applications—including during rehabilitation after an acute injury and management of joint diseases, such as arthritis—providing an actionable metric for physicians based on the underlying physiological changes of the joint itself. This work specifically investigates the hardware for such a system. First, we examined microphones suited for wearable applications (e.g., miniature, inexpensive) that still provide robust measurements in terms of signal quality and consistency for repeated measurements. Second, we implemented a microcontroller-based system to sample high-throughput audio data as well as lower-rate electrical bioimpedance, inertial, and temperature data, which was incorporated into a fully untethered “brace.” Importantly, this work provides the fundamental hardware system for wearable knee joint health assessment.