An X-ray robot to scan orthopaedic patients
Jan 21, 2006 - 3:32:37 PM

A US scientist has developed a robot which can take X-ray pictures of sufferers of orthopaedic injuries as they move around. Complaints of orthopaedic injuries are among the most common reasons people visit the doctor.

Surgeons use static X-rays, MRI and CT scans to diagnose patients. They also use X-ray video. But current technologies provide only a tight view of a very limited range of motions in a controlled laboratory setting.

But the robot designed by mechanical and aerospace engineer Scott Banks at the University of Florida shoots X-ray video of sufferers of orthopaedic injuries as they walk, climb stairs, stand up from a seated position or pursue other normal activities - and maybe even athletic ones like swinging a bat.

X-rays, MRI and CT scan can be effective but they do not work well with injuries that manifest themselves when a joint is in motion, Banks said, the online edition of Newswise wire reported.

These include, for example, injuries to the patella, or kneecap, and injuries of the shoulder. Surgeons sometimes have to operate to diagnose these and other injuries, which can lead to unnecessary surgeries.

After operations, surgeons have few tools beyond the patient's experience to tell them whether a procedure worked as intended and whether it will forestall additional joint damage.

But the robot, he says, is a system that uses two robots with one robot used to shoot the X-ray video and another to hold the image sensor.

It can shadow a person's knee, shoulder or other joint with its hand as he or she moves.

Although the robots will be attached to a fixed base, there is room for a person to move around normally within their reach.

And in the future, said Banks, "we could put these robots on wheels and they could follow you around".

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