November 28, 2017
1 min read

Novel device rapidly accurately measures limb enlargement in lymphatic filariasis

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A novel portable three-dimensional scanning device quickly and accurately measured limb enlargement and disfigurement among patients with lymphatic filariasis, researchers reported in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

“We were looking for a more reliable way of monitoring lymphedema for an upcoming clinical trial,” Philip J. Budge, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Washington University, St. Louis, told Infectious Disease News.

Clinics use a variety of methods, including tape measurements, water volume displacement and ultrasound, to measure lymphedema.

“None of these are super convenient and each has drawbacks,” Budge said. “We wanted to see if the scanner the LymphaTech guys had developed would be able to give us the same information as water displacement and tape measurements in a way that was more convenient to both patients and researchers.”

The researchers compared measurements with the novel device, which consists of infrared sensors integrated with a computer tablet (LymphaTech, Atlanta, Georgia), against measurements taken with water displacement having patients place limbs in a full water tank and measuring how much liquid is forced from the tank and tape measurements of limb circumference among 52 patients with lymphatic filariasis in Galle, Sri Lanka. Budge and colleagues also evaluated the reproducibility of skin thickness ultrasound measurements.

In measurements taken from a total of 104 limbs, measurements from the scanner nearly perfectly matched tape and water displacement measurements, the researchers reported. Measuring both legs with the scanner required a mean of 2.2 minutes, whereas water displacement required a mean of 17.4 minutes, tape measurements required 7.5 minutes and skin thickness ultrasound measurements required 31.7 minutes.

“Our immediate next step is to use it in a set of clinical trials looking at whether taking the antibiotic doxycycline can reduce the chance that a person’s lymphedema will get worse,” Budge said. “But there are lots of other potential applications. Lymphedema is a tough problem that requires daily care. For patients, the feedback they can get from having accurate, rapid measurements each time they go to the clinic may really help motivate them to keep up with the exercises and washing they need to do to keep their lymphedema from getting worse.” – by Andy Polhamus