IPEM Innovation Grant to help study walking difficulties in children
A STUDY to validate wearable sensors to measure gait impairments in children has won a biomedical engineer more than £9,500 in funding from IPEM.
Dr Elizabeth Wojciechowski is an IPEM member working in the Paediatric Gait Analysis Service at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia.
She applied to IPEM for an Innovation Grant to aid her research into Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), the most common hereditary peripheral neuropathy, which is passed down through generations within families.
CMT causes muscle weakness which results in difficulty walking, poor balance and frequent trips and falls. It is a progressive disease, meaning that symptoms get worse over time. There is currently no cure for it, and clinical care focuses on managing symptoms with physical therapy, orthoses and surgery.
The gold standard way to measure walking is using highly sophisticated and expensive motion capture systems, which use infra-red cameras to track reflective markers positioned on the lower legs. The markers calculate measures related to time and distance such as walking speed and step length as well as joint angle information.
Such 3D gait analysis, however, is time consuming, performed in a controlled laboratory environment, and generally only used on children with severe and complex walking difficulties.
Dr Wojciechowski’s study over the course of 12 months will use wearable sensors, which provides a simple, and cheaper, alternative. Three sensors are positioned on the feet and around the waist can be used calculate time and distance walking measures. Placing an additional two sensors around the calves and two around the thighs also allows the calculation of joint angles.
However, the accuracy of wearable sensors for use with children with CMT has not been tested. Comparing the outputs of wearable sensors to gold standard methods is required before this technology can be used clinically.
The aim of Dr Wojciechowski’s research project is to compare walking data from wearable sensors, the Opal Moveo Explorer system, to 3D motion analysis data in children with CMT.
Data collection and analysis
Data collection will run throughout 2022, with four participants expected to be enrolled in the study per month. Data analysis and dissemination of the findings will then take place two to three months following enrolment of the last participant.
Dr Wojciechowski said: ‘I’m delighted to receive this grant from IPEM. It will help me compare walking data from wearable sensors with gold standard 3D motion analysis data in children with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Using wearable sensors to assess gait can help guide treatment options, monitor disease progression and provide outcome measures for future clinical trials.’
Dr Robert Farley, IPEM’s President, said: ‘The project Dr Wojciechowski is undertaking will be vital to help prove if wearable sensors can be used clinically to help children with this debilitating disease.
‘This is exactly the sort of research we want to support and I’m delighted she has received this Innovation Grant from IPEM. I encourage other members undertaking such projects to apply for a grant.’