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These boots were made for... biofeedback

Project summary

Prevention of foot ulcer recurrence in diabetes patients using novel biofeedback technology

Professor Neil Reeves will test a novel ‘biofeedback’ system that will measure the pressures being placed on the feet and display the results on a mobile phone. If successful, the system could help reduce the recurrence of foot ulcers in people with diabetes and neuropathy.

Background to research

Diabetic foot ulcers are linked to an increased risk of lower-limb amputation and are therefore a very serious problem for people with diabetes. There is an extremely high risk that healed diabetic foot ulcers will re-occur, and doctors have not yet been able to develop an effective way to prevent this. High pressures placed on the soles of the feet during walking are largely responsible for the recurrence of foot ulcers. People with diabetes and neuropathy are at high risk of recurring foot ulcers because they lose sensitivity in the soles of their feet and have no way to tell when pressures become too high.

Research aims

Professor Neil Reeves and his team at Manchester Metropolitan University will test a novel ‘biofeedback’ system that uses special insoles worn in the shoes to measure the pressures being placed on the soles of the feet and display the results in real time on the screen of a mobile phone. A group of participants with diabetes and a recently healed plantar ulcer will be assigned to test the new biofeedback system. They will be trained to use the system throughout their daily lives so that they can modify the pressure placed on the soles of their feet and actively help to prevent the re-occurrence of foot ulcers. By way of comparison, a similar group of people will wear the insole sensors but will receive no visual feedback regarding the pressures on their feet. Both groups will be monitored by the researchers for a period of 18 months to assess their quality of life and their footcare behaviour as well as to check for the development of foot ulcers.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This study will last for three years and the researchers hope that the new system could be widely used among people with diabetes two to three years after it is complete. After the study, those who took part can continue using the new pressure feedback system if they have found it beneficial. If the new system does prove successful, it could be used to empower people with diabetes and neuropathy to monitor and regulate the pressures they place on their feet. This could help to prevent diabetic foot ulcers from developing (or redeveloping), thereby reducing the risk of amputations and improving overall quality of life.

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