Researchers Getting Help from a Robot to Diagnose Ankle Injuries

SPRI Senior Robotics Engineer Alex Brady:  I’m a member of the Biomedical Engineering team, and we help achieve positive patient outcomes. Our work here at SPRI has true purpose.”

A robot named Tiffany may help change the way physicians diagnose ankle injuries.

Senior Research Technician Alex Brady works with Tiffany at Steadman Philippon Research Institute’s (SPRI) Robotics lab. Tiffany is a Kuka KR-60 robot. The name is an acronym for Testing Interface Facilitating Force Analysis of Necromantic Yoga, which describes how the robot is able to animate cadavers for use in SPRI research. Brady recently shared his findings during a podium presentation at the annual meeting of the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) in Austin, Texas.

“We’re looking at diagnosing non-reduction of the ankle syndesmosis using CT scan and axis,” said Brady, whose background is in mechanical engineering. “We’re researching medical imaging of the ankle and how to detect when there’s a problem. There are many ways to analyze and take measurements from the images. Our research compares the existing methods to see which is best and what will eventually provide the most appropriate course of treatment for the patient.”

The ORS meeting gives biologists, clinicians, veterinarians, scientists and researchers like Brady the opportunity to see what’s happening outside of their focus in the lab.

“It’s interesting to see what people are doing in regenerative medicine, clinical outcomes and biomechanics studies,” said Brady. “We’re really encouraged to listen to talks that aren’t necessarily in our field and bring all that information back to SPRI. We may be able to take a technique from a totally different area and apply it to what we’re doing in a creative way.”

That creativity may involve Tiffany, which is a robotic arm with six degrees of freedom. “Our bodies have six degrees of freedom,” said Brady. “The robot can make any motion that we can make with our joints. It’s really useful for testing the outcome of different surgeries. We want the joint to be working the same way it was before the surgery. With the robotic arm, we’re able to compare surgeries by seeing which one brings the motions of the joint closest to the initial baseline test.”

Brady has found a balance of background and interest at SPRI.

“I majored in mechanical engineering with a focus in robotics. At SPRI, I can do what I love. I’m a robotics engineer and I help achieve positive patient outcomes. It’s a rare opportunity to do both. I feel our work here at SPRI has true purpose.”

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