New ‘FootSnap’ app could improve clinical care for people with diabetic foot ulcers.

A team of researchers in Manchester have developed an app designed to help medical professionals better detect foot ulcers.

The ‘FootSnap’ app allows healthcare professionals to capture consistent photographs of the underside of people with diabetes’ feet and monitor treatment of the condition.

The app, created to run on a tablet device, and a report on the new technology was recently published in Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.

Podiatry, or foot care, is important for people with diabetes as they can be more at risk of developing foot problems due to the damage that raised blood sugars can cause to sensation and blood circulation.

The development of foot ulcers and the loss of sensation in toes, can create a cycle of tissue damage and other foot complications and so careful routine observation and examination is vital.

The photography-based app uses a tripod and a portable LED spotlight to help clinicians to capture uniform images of the bottom of someone’s feet at any time. This allows any changes in a patient’s physiology to be more easily tracked and compared over time, with the aim of leading to a timely diagnosis of abnormalities or further complications.

The app was designed by Dr Moi Hoon Yap, a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, and Professor Neil Reeves, Professor of Musculoskeletal Biomechanics, of Manchester Metropolitan University.

Professor Reeves (previously DRWF-funded researcher) said: “A diabetic foot ulcer is an open wound on the foot and represents a major problem for people with diabetes, being very difficult to heal and in some cases leading on to amputation. The app that we have developed at the moment standardises foot photographs.

“Feet may not necessarily be photographed by clinicians at the moment. If they are, the pictures are not standardised for distance, orientation and lighting as we do with this app.

“The standardisation feature of the app is, however, only the first stage of what we will go onto achieve. We are now incorporating more sophisticated algorithms, which allow for state-of-the-art monitoring and prevention of foot ulceration over time.

“This will be a very useful clinical tool for healthcare professionals to monitor ulcer healing and is a major advantage over the current approach, which is mainly based on subjective judgement.”

The app should be available to download in the near future and the developers hope that further development of the technology will enable it to be used on smartphones and other devices and by less well-trained operators.

Dr Yap said: “FootSnap is a mobile application based on the concept of data-driven research and Internet of Things. It was embedded with image processing algorithms to enable standardisation of data capturing.

“In the near future, the optimised light-weight deep learning model will be integrated into FootSnap to enable early prediction of diabetic foot ulcers.”

Read the report in Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology
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