Professor and Computer Science Chair Alberto Segre, along with UI CoInvestigators John Femino and Phinit Phisitkul, both from Orthopaedic Surgery, was recently awarded a grant entitled "Remote Monitoring of Diabetic Foot Ulcers" from the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) Diabetes Research Center.
The team's application was one of three selected to receive $50,000 to support their research proposal, with the possibility of $100,000 over a two-year period.
Every 30 seconds, someone in the world loses a lower limb to diabetes. Diabetes causes damage to nerves and blood vessels, resulting in loss of sensation and reduced blood flow to the feet. Loss of sensation means diabetics are more likely to develop pressure- and trauma-related injuries, and reduced blood flow inhibits healing of the resulting wounds. Progression of ulcers and infections of surrounding tissue and bone may lead to amputations, disability, and excess healthcare costs. But while the lifetime risk of foot ulcers for patients suffering from diabetes may be as high as 25%, an estimated 50% of diabetic foot ulcers can be prevented with education and patient self-management. With early detection, diabetic foot ulcers can be managed effectively without invasive surgery. Yet, the number of ulcers and amputations remains high. Thus there is a critical need to develop effective approaches to routine foot surveillance, including timely detection of ulcers and wound monitoring.
Our overarching goal is to develop a new approach for remotely monitoring the feet of diabetic patients. Our system exploits the ubiquity of mobile cellphone cameras by texting patients and prompting them to photograph the bottoms of their feet. The photographs are returned to our server via text where they are timestamped, saved to a secure database, and, for now, manually annotated to indicate any visible lesions or ulcers. It is our eventual goal to fully automate the detection of pre-ulcerous lesions or ulcers in these photographs by applying the latest deep-learning methods. Once complete, our system will facilitate the early detection and treatment of diabetic foot ulcers, a leading cause of lower limb amputation.