'Smart cane' could one day help flag gait problems, falling risks more quickly

phys.org | 2/13/2018 | Staff
morica (Posted by) Level 3
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Feeling a little unsteady and don't know why?

A pair of Vanderbilt University engineers have developed an instrumented cane that not only provides added support, but can also analyze your gait to determine your risk of falling. Nilanjan Sarkar, professor of mechanical and computer engineering, says the "IntelliCane" can quantitatively calculate falling risk as accurately as a physical therapist can with their own eyes.

Citizen - Dizziness - Balance - Problems - Deal

If you are a senior citizen, dizziness and balance problems can be a big deal. In the United States, every year one out of three adults over 65 years of age falls and the statistic climbs to one out of two after age 80. Falls can be serious, leading to hip and other bone fractures, brain injury, loss of independence and even death. Falls are also expensive: The cost of treating injuries from falls is estimated at $34 billion annually.

The problem is not restricted to the elderly. There are a number of illnesses that cause balance disorders, ranging from ear infections, head injuries and poor blood circulation to Parkinson's, spinal stenosis and stroke, and these patients could benefit from such a device.

Problem - Solutions - Sarkar - Thought - Something

"When I realized how big this problem was, we started searching for available solutions," said Sarkar. "Initially, my thought was to design something to prevent falls, but after more thought and a little experimenting we quickly realized that this was not practical. The next best thing was to determine how to reliably estimate the fall risk so that intervention can be applied when a person's risk gets so high that they could fall at any time."

Currently, physical therapists estimate falling risk by observing the patient walking back and forth between two lines under a variety of conditions—slow and fast, looking right and left, stepping over obstacles, while blindfolded, up and down steps. The therapist then employs a...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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