A foot-temperature monitoring device could help to detect when diabetic patients are developing foot ulcers, a common complication that can lead to infections and amputations. Matthew Stock reports.
Left untreated, a diabetic foot ulcer like this can lead to amputation. But this device can spot the tell-tale signs before an ulcer is even visible. Called DFRIST, it was developed at the UK's National Physical Laboratory. Diabetics often have nerve damage that limits their ability to feel pain, so they don't notice developing ulcers. SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT SIMPSON, SENIOR SCIENTIST FOR TEMPERATURE TEAM AT NATIONAL PHYSICAL LABORATORY (NPL), SAYING: "If you have an amputation then unfortunately the outlook is up to 50 percent of those who have an amputation are dead within two years, and up to 80 percent are dead within five years. So any early indication, any warning, any better management of the diabetic foot for pediatrists and diabetologists and for the patient themselves is critical." Skin temperature typically increases as ulcers develop. Current methods involve labour intensive and more subjective single-spot tests. In research funded by the National Institute for Health Research, DFIRST could quickly and non-invasively heat map the whole foot instantly. SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT SIMPSON, SENIOR SCIENTIST FOR TEMPERATURE TEAM AT NATIONAL PHYSICAL LABORATORY (NPL), SAYING: "You can take a snap-shot, an immediate snap-shot of a patient within a second. Take their thermal profile; it provides you with an objective set of data with which you can make an assessment on-going in collaboration with the patient, such that you can better manage or better identify risk areas." Globally about one in 10 adults have diabetes, with around 140 amputations in the UK alone every week. This DFIRST prototype has been in clinical trials for two years. The next version will be reduced in size and weight. This could eventually make it more suitable for home use, giving people the power to better manage their risk of developing ulcers.