By Michelle Fredrickson for WSU News

Washington State University researchers have developed a “smart” sock to track ankle edema, a symptom of many serious medical conditions, at home. The researchers hope the innovation will lead to a more cost effective, accurate, and easier way to track edema, an accumulation of fluids in the lower parts of the body that is often a symptom of heart or kidney failure.

Washington State University researchers have developed a “smart” sock to track ankle edema, a symptom of many serious medical conditions, at home.Although edema is an excellent health indicator, measuring it currently requires a doctor’s visit and is often done with a tape measure. Measuring edema continuously could also provide more useful information for doctors than sporadic measurements.

Led by Hassan Ghasemzadeh, assistant professor in the School of EECS, the researchers have designed a “Smart-Sock” that uses multiple wearable sensors to accurately monitor ankle circumference to keep track of edema. The researchers have a provisional patent on the technology, and hope to begin deploying the device in clinical trials this fall.

The device contains two types of sensors—a motion sensor and a circumference measurement sensor. The circumference sensor measures changes in the physical girth of the ankle, while the motion sensor differentiates the posture of the wearer. Taken together, the device can interpret the data. When a person is standing or sitting, fluid tends to move down to the ankles, whereas when a person is lying down or reclining, fluid tends to move to a more equalized distribution.

“When it comes to monitoring ankle edema, it really matters what the current body posture is when you’re measuring circumference,” said Ramin Fallahzadeh, a doctorate student working on the project.

The researchers are developing an app that would take the sensor data from the device, determine its relevance, and then send the relevant information to either a desktop or phone. They are also working to include sensors to detect abnormal gaits of the patient. And, they aim to make the sensors embedded in the sock disposable, so users don’t have to wash it.