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A new way to accurately measure gait

A look at the portable, convenient technology that helps analyse gait in dogs, and hopefully soon horses

28 March 2018, at 2:15pm

GaitKeeper is a portable system for measuring gait. The system has been validated in laboratory conditions and peer-reviewed in international journals. It uses inertial sensing technology and machine learning to make gathering research-grade measurements easy and available to general clinical practice.

What is the key use?

When it comes to measuring disease, dysfunction or recovery, gait is often used as a window into the area of interest. This technology makes measuring gait easy and objective. On its own, it is not a diagnosis tool or magic wand; it still requires clinical knowledge. However, in the hands of a professional, it is a powerful imaging technology that gives very detailed measurements that may otherwise be unobservable.

What problem does it solve?

Measuring gait is not a new technique and a whole body of research points to the clinical relevance and how features like asymmetry in swing and stance phase are important. To date, gait measurement has been expensive and refined to specialist labs with highly calibrated mats, plates or cameras. While GaitKeeper is not a replacement for such equipment (for instance it cannot measure force), it is more convenient. 

How does it work?

The GaitKeeper uses sensors that attach to the leg of the subject via Velcro (just below the carpus or hock). Each sensor includes an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Measurements from these components are wirelessly uploaded to the cloud. A machine learning algorithm predicts precise timings of each final and initial contact. Measurement results are instantly available in interactive charts and it is possible to view historical measurements to track regression or improvement. 

Where would it be most useful? 

A GaitKeeper system would be well placed in any surgery that provides rehabilitation assessments post-surgery or a practice offering services such as physio or hydrotherapy. Used in conjunction with a physical exam it gives a clear measurement that informs next-step decision making. The reports are also ideal tools for talking with owners and discussing available options.

How do you use it?

Sensors are attached to thoracic or pelvic limbs (or both). The patient is then walked in a straight line across a hard surface. An app lets you capture video or notes and has a stopwatch built in. Recordings are then downloaded from the sensors and sent to the cloud for processing (which requires an internet connection). Once it has finished processing, a report is available inside a secure portal where previous recordings are also led.

What would you say is the best feature of the product?

Spotting asymmetry by eye is one thing but measuring it is another. The system allows automatic calculation of asymmetry (and variability) on several gait parameters such as swing, stance, velocity and jerk. Aside from the measurement capabilities, the product also has features such as secure archiving, raw-data export and owner report sharing, which make it compliant with regulations and a pleasure to use.

Are there any planned future developments of the technology?

There are plans to extend the quantity of features available from the system and encompass settings for measuring horses.

How much does it cost?

Systems start at £1,000 for hardware. Software packages are on a yearly subscription basis. 

Learn more about GaitKeeper at VetSens: vetsens.co.uk/products/gaitkeeper/ 

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