Advances In Ambulation Monitoring May Benefit Patients With Diabetes

David G. Armstrong DPM MD PhD

Researchers in the University of Arizona Department of Surgery have received a $1.2 million grant to use cutting-edge technology in the form of a simple computerized undershirt to monitor activity in patients with diabetic foot wounds. The study, funded by the Qatar National Research Fund, will determine the role activity plays in the formation of sores to better understand how to prevent wounds from occurring.

This is potentially game changing. The kind of data we are going to collect on a large scale will help us better tailor activity for a broad spectrum of patients that go beyond this one disease.

The technology is a body-worn sensor that for the first time allows researchers to monitor activity accurately. The study aims to help researchers determine the most effective forms of exercise and activity for people with diabetes. During the three-year study, 112 people with diabetes who are suffering from foot wounds will be enrolled at the University of Arizona and at Hamad Medical Corporation in Doha, Qatar, and monitored through a comfortable undershirt. The Center for Lower Extremity Ambulatory Research (CLEAR) in Chicago is a partner in the endeavor.

The device does not cramp the style of patients at all. It can assess not just the steps that we take but many other things. It can measure if you are standing or sitting, jumping or running, lying down on your stomach or your back. We are able to gauge, with highly sensitive equipment, what is going on with the foot and rest of the body based on subtle movements that occur in the trunk.

We used to think that it was the number of steps that people took that might predict whether they got a wound or not. The more steps you took, the more likely you were to get a blister, which would become a wound.

However, I now believe that other movements may be predictive of a wound and walking in short bursts around the home actually may be more dangerous than walking a mile outdoors. The detrimental movement might not be occurring during the walking, but during the starting and stopping. The great news about this is that these problems are preventable and one of the ways they are preventable is in better assessing activity levels in patients.

Hopefully, sensors will ultimately be available to all people with diabetes. Eventually, these sensors could be embedded in cell phones, and be downloaded as an "app." If an individual is moving in a manner that is more likely to cause a wound, the person and his or her physician will receive an electronic alert.

This device could be like a home security system for your body. We want people to be as active as they can be but we do not want them to be active in a way that hurts them. We think there is a happy medium. We want to get people back to living their lives.

This blog has been adapted with permission. It originally appeared at .

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