Conformable and robust microfluidic force sensors to enable precision joint replacement surgery
Balancing forces within weight-bearing joints such as the hip during joint replacement surgeries is essential for implant longevity. Minimising implant failure and the corresponding need for expensive and difficult revision surgery is vital to both improve patient quality of life and lighten the burden on overstretched healthcare systems. However, force balancing during total hip replacements is presently entirely dependent on surgical skill, as there are no sensors capable of providing quantitative force feedback within the small and complex geometry of the hip joint. Here, we solve this unmet clinical need by presenting a thin and conformable microfluidic force sensor, which is compatible with the standard surgical process. The sensors are fabricated via additive manufacturing, using a combination of 3D and aerosol-jet printing. We optimised the design using finite element modelling, then incorporated and calibrated our sensors in a 3D printed model hip implant. Using a bespoke testing rig, we demonstrated high sensitivity at typical forces experienced during hip replacements. We anticipate that these sensors will aid implant positioning, increasing the lifetime of hip replacements, and represent a powerful new surgical tool for a range of orthopaedic procedures where force balancing is crucial.
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/P007767/1)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (2277393)