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Ultrasound device to improve pain management for osteoarthritis patients

Three individuals running on treadmills, depicted from the waist down

By packaging the therapeutic value of ultrasound into a small handheld device, medical physics professor Jahan Tavakkoli is developing a tool that could be used to treat osteoarthritis at home.

Along with clinical collaborator Dr. Kevin Rod, medical director of the Toronto Poly Clinic, and industrial collaborator Hossein Zereshkian, president of Circuit Plus Inc., a technology development firm, professor Tavakkoli is applying his expertise in ultrasound technology in this project.

Ultrasound energy is used to treat acute osteoarthritis by alleviating pain and stiffness symptoms. While there are other handheld ultrasound devices on the market, their output power is not strong enough for use in a clinical setting. Desktop versions of ultrasound machines that have shown clinical-level therapeutic value cost thousands of dollars. According to Mr. Zereshkian, their handheld device will match the output power of desktop versions and will include additional capabilities that make it unique in the market. Their patent-pending handheld solution will work with a rechargeable battery and would cost a retail price of less than $500 CDN.

The team's product is currently being used in a human clinical trial approved by Health Canada, administered by Dr. Rod, at his clinic, on patients suffering from chronic knee pain due to osteoarthritis. Dr. Rod is also evaluating the effectiveness of this device on enhancing penetration of topical medications such as anti-inflammatories and cannabidiol (CBD) oils in affected tissues. While the first step of approvals will be for clinic use, professor Tavakkoli aims to have the product available for both clinic and home use for osteoarthritis sufferers to self-manage their pain.

Through their novel design, professor Tavakkoli and his collaborators have created a device that not only uses significantly less input electric power, enabling battery use; its lightweight design also makes it easy for patients to use themselves. "There is a lot of novelty in the electronic circuitry of the device," said professor Tavakkoli. "There are many years of research and development behind this project."

Original funding for the project was provided by an Ontario Research Fund - Research Excellence grant that was awarded to professor Tavakkoli in 2009.