Engineering at Nebraska, Spring 2008
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Feature

Wave of the Future

Greg Bashford tests tendons with ultrasound. Photo courtesy of IANR.

by Lauren Hill '10, CoJMC

It is challenging to detect the severity of tendon damage, but professor Greg

Bashford is researching a new way to improve the diagnosis of an individual with tendon damage.

Bashford's work in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering includes a study that ultrasounds may be a more accurate and inexpensive way to detect tendon damage.

Currently, hospitals use expensive magnetic resonance imaging machines to evaluate tendon injuries. In Bashford's study, ultrasound is used instead of the MRI. He has also created software that works with the ultrasound machine, showing a more accurate and detailed image of a tendon.

"I was familiar with creating software, but not for this type of machine," Bashford said. "It took me awhile to figure out how to coordinate an ultrasound machine to new software that would capture a picture of the tendon by bouncing sound off the body."

To test the new machine, Bashford and his colleagues assembled a sample of diverse individuals and examined their tendons, to show damage to the tendon of each person. The findings helped him analyze the machine and software to gauge his work.

Bashford said he hopes this new discovery will help make patients' recovery time shorter and more effective. With early detection, a doctor can diagnose a treatment that will improve patients' tendons before they become severely damaged.

Ultrasound images of a healthy tendon show a parallel collection of tissue. Images of a damaged tendon show a collection of thicker tissue that is disorganized.

Symptoms of an injured tendon include severe pain in joints, rapid or immediate bruising or swelling, weakness, the inability to bear weight or to bend the foot or walk normally.

Tendon injuries are most commonly the result of overuse, running on hard or bumpy surfaces, poor stretching habits, strong or weak calf muscles or flat feet.

Injured tendons frequently stem from activities with rapid movement, such as playing tennis, racquetball or basketball. These injuries can be more likely when an individual takes part in physical activity for the first time after an extended break.

Bashford said his process is more than 80 percent accurate and added that he hopes to improve it to the point where hospitals can use it. Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital approached Bashford about developing an ultrasound machine and software to diagnose the severity of tendon damage.

Bashford was assisted in this research by Nick Thomas, a 2007 biological systems engineering graduate. Thomas and Bashford also involved colleagues at the University of California.

The Layman Foundation covered the cost for this project with an initial grant of $10,000. The foundation is a funding organization within the university that exclusively supports UNL research.

 

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