Sound diagnosis

A UK post-doctoral researcher has developed a system that uses sound to establish the condition of joints in the body.

A post-doctoral researcher in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at Anglia Ruskin University has developed a novel system that uses sound to establish the condition of joints in the body.

Steven Abbott’s phono arthrometry system is claimed to be a fast, non-invasive and relatively cheap means of obtaining detailed information about the internal state of a joint – information that could then be used for diagnostic purposes.

In clinical tests, Abbott’s system was able to successfully establish whether an individual’s knee joint was normal or showing signs of abnormality.

His system detected a clear abnormal response from the underside of a patient’s kneecap, where the MRI scan of the patient had revealed nothing abnormal. The patient was then confirmed as having localised damage in this location through keyhole investigation.

The technology has the potential to impact positively on NHS resources. The cost for Abbott’s equipment is estimated at just a few thousand pounds; an MRI scanner in comparison costs an average of £1m.

For his efforts, the researcher has recently been awarded a place on the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship’s (NCGE) prestigious Flying Start Global Entrepreneurs programme to turn his research into a high technology business.

Specialist training in the UK, led by the NCGE and NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) over the past six months, has helped Abbott to develop his diagnostic system further.

As part of the Flying Start placement, Abbott recently left the UK for a six-month stint in the US with the Kauffman Foundation. Meanwhile, Anglia Ruskin has put in place support to enable him to continue his research into the technique and to commercialise it.

Abbott partly attributes his success in this little-known field of research to the very different perspective he has in the interpretation of sound as a disabled person. He was registered blind in 2003.