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University developing technology to reduce the incidence of diabetic foot complications

A team of researchers at the University of Malta, in collaboration with Mater Dei Hospital, are developing a device in an attempt to reduce the incidence of diabetic foot complications.

The project is called “The Smart Insole Technology for the management of the Diabetic Foot”. It is a 3-year project which is being funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) through the Fusion R&I Technology Development Programme.

Professor Alfred Gatt is leading the project along with Professor Cynthia Formosa from the Department of Podiatry and Dr Ing Marvin Bugeja from the Department of Systems and Control Engineering, as well as a team of podiatrists and engineers to optimise this technology and make it available for use as soon as possible.

The technology they have created, which builds on previous research done by the University of Malta, assesses the patient’s risk of getting a diabetic ulcer by monitoring foot plantar pressure and temperature during walking. The technology uses Artificial Intelligence to measure the pressure and temperature to determine areas which have a high risk of ulceration during daily activities.

A statement by the university read that diabetic foot ulceration and amputations are a worldwide concern and in Malta, there are around 500 partial and full foot amputations carried out every year. It also revealed that in the EU there are 450,000-foot amputations a year which costs them €2.5 billion.

The team said that currently, foot orthoses are being used to offload previously ulcerated areas, but diabetic foot amputation is still increasing. Consequently, they are working towards a system which manages and prevents any form of ulceration from happening.

“Where the high-risk foot is concerned, ‘time is tissue’. One cannot simply afford to wait for complications such as infection to develop as this might mean limb loss and ultimately even death,” the team said.

The team hopes that by the end of the project, this technology will be manufactured further to help people suffering from diabetes worldwide.

If managed in a timely manner, ulceration may be prevented in 80% of the cases, the statement read.

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