KneeGraphy improves Osteoarthritis diagnosis

Aiming to improve citizens’ quality of life by creating innovative solutions, Fraunhofer AICOS continues searching for new challenges and results, and the KneeGraphy is one of those great examples. The KneeGraphy project aims to develop a new diagnostic method completely non-invasive, simple and quick, for early identification of knee Osteoarthritis among the elderly.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common diseases of the knee joint, especially among the obese and elderly. Until now, the diagnosis relied on either expensive, unreliable or invasive methods as MRI, X-ray imaging or arthoscopy, however, the development of the KneeGraphy project may represent a major change.

The KneeGraphy started has a Master thesis, developed by Dinis Moreira at Fraunhofer AICOS, and was recently assessed with the grade of 18 at Faculty of Engineering of University of Porto. The project, which was also presented at the AAL Forum 2015 (in Belgium), will now be integrated in another Fraunhofer AICOS’ project, the Smart Companion – an Android customization specially designed to address seniors’ goals and needs which aims to be a permanently available companion to support seniors in their daily activities, through a number of tools, from messaging, medication reminder, physical exercise monitoring to falls detection/prevention applications.

The identification of the presence of osteoarthritis is achieved through analysis of the vibrations emitted by the knee by use of a single accelerometer in an extension and flexion test. Signal processing algorithms and machine learning were used to characterize the current state of the knee joint, this sorting to be a healthy articulation (with no signs of arthritis) or as an arthritic joint.

This type of analysis differs from the current methodologies used in identifying this condition because it consists of a completely non-invasive method, does not require the use of any type of radiation, is simple, practical, quick, cheap and easy to perform and does not require any technical experts for its acquisition and analysis. As a new mean of diagnosis, the KneeGraphy brings numerous advantages because it allows the detection of small and progressive structural changes that occur in the knee joint, before they are significant either symptomatically or anatomically. The tests performed with a preliminary set of data collected from 39 different individuals revealed a good overall efficiency regarding the differentiation between the affected and unaffected knees.

Osteoarthritisis is a joint disease affecting mostly cartilage tissues of the joint, provoking pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of motion of the joint...  Aging, injury, and obesity may cause this condition that may affect several joints, including the hand, wrist, neck, back, knee, and hip. Over time, the joint may lose its normal shape, bone spurs may grow on the edges of the joint and bits of bone or cartilage can break off and float inside the joint space, causing even more pain and damage.