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Researchers hope to develop a better predictor for diabetic foot ulcers

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A team of academics from Devon are hoping to help prevent foot ulcers by devising a new pressure-predicting model.

The group from Plymouth University are to work on a new mathematical model to predict the pressure on feet.

“We hope to provide a more effective way of preventing foot ulceration”

Miriam McMullan

The model will aim to estimate horizontal plantar shear that, combined with vertical pressure, is one of the causes of foot ulceration – especially in patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Unlike vertical pressure, which is measured by commercially available devices, horizontal pressure is estimated by an existing mathematical model – the accuracy of which is limited as it requires several assumptions.

According to the university, the new study aims to develop a more refined mathematical model using easily measurable vertical pressure data.

The model could potentially help to predict when and where ulcers might occur, thereby helping to prevent their development, claim the researchers.

One of those working on the project with maths experts is podiatry lecturer Dr Miriam McMullan, who said: “When people with severe diabetic peripheral neuropathy start to lose sensation in their body, the feet are usually the first area to be affected.

Plymouth University

Researchers hope to develop predictor for foot ulcers

Miriam McMullan

“The horizontal and vertical pressure on the feet can result in ulcerations and, although the patient can’t necessarily feel the ulcers, they can lead to further problems and infections,” she said.

“It is very difficult to measure horizontal plantar shear and, presently, it is impossible to directly measure subsurface shear. Although the existing mathematical model is a way of estimating horizontal pressure, the present model is limited by several assumptions,” said Dr McMullan.

She added: “By improving the accuracy of the mathematical model currently utilised to predict horizontal pressure, we hope to provide a more effective way of preventing foot ulceration and also alleviate the problems of those who currently suffer.”

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