Knees under surveillance

One in two people will experience knee pain at some point in their lives, often caused by biomechanical problems that are difficult to identify using current methods. But not for long! KneeKG, a new diagnostic tool for knees, is making its debut in several clinics. This Québec invention has arrived at just the right time for baby boomers who want to remain active in spite of failing knees.

For many years, the aging of the population has prompted orthopaedic specialists to call for new ways to quickly diagnose certain knee conditions. X-rays provide a two-dimensional image that is complex to interpret, while magnetic resonance imaging shows the state of the tissue in three dimensions, but only in a lying position. "These techniques do not allow us to analyse the knee in motion, in order to identify mechanical problems related to flexion-extension, rotation or adduction-abduction", notes Jacques de Guise, a researcher with CHUM research centre  and director of the Imaging and Orthopaedics Laboratory at École de Technologie Supérieure.

The "knee-electrocardiogram" allows a precise analysis of the three-dimensional functioning of the knee joint.

The biomedical engineer and his team were inspired by motion capture in animated films to develop the first 3D examination of the knee… in action! The principle: motion sensors are fixed to the femur and tibia of the patient by means of a harness. While the patient walks, a 3D camera records the sensors' movements. The result: a "knee-electrocardiogram" that allows a precise analysis of the three-dimensional functioning of the knee joint. The clinician is then able to identify the origin of knee pain or detect the onset of osteoarthritis, which afflicts so many aging adults. "With early intervention, we can often delay or even avoid surgery that is invasive for the patient and expensive in health care", adds Jacques de Guise. This frontline tool can also be used to assess treatments such as the use of an orthopaedic brace.

The researcher has teamed up with EMOVI Medical to put the finishing touches to the KneeKG and promote it internationally. Hospitals in France, Australia, the USA and China are already using the technology, in addition to several Montréal clinics. And this is only the beginning!