Attaching a tiny microphone to the knees could record and analyse knee health based on the noise produced, shows a recent study published in PLoS.
Osteoarthritis of the knee is a common degenerative joint condition, which can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints, due to break in the ends of bones of the protective cartilage.
Researchers from Lancaster University, the University of Central Lancashire and Manchester University, attached sensors to the participant’s knee to record the signals produced by the joint.
The study showed that the new technique could record the difference between the signals produced by healthy knees and those with osteoarthritis.
The research team found that the more ‘hits’ that were visible on the waveforms produced by the knees, the more ‘noisy’ the knee and the more severe the osteoarthritis.
“Although it is not possible to listen to these sounds with the human ear, it is possible that each individual knee has its own tune”, said Prof John Goodacre, from Lancaster University, to BBC News.
The current way of grading knee osteoarthritis is crude, usually involving an X-ray, and the picture can change every few months.
“This is a finer, more sensitive way of grading severity without relying on an X-ray,” says Prof. Goodacre talking about the new finding.
The researchers analysed the noise produced by the knees of 89 adults with osteoarthritis.
The participants were made to stand up from a seated position five times while acoustic signals from their joints were recorded.
Prof Goodacre said the technique could lead to more personalised treatments, tailored to the particular characteristics of someone’s knee condition.
However, scientists acknowledge the need for more research and trials to be conducted in larger numbers of people to develop the technique.