A sensor to read meniscal load, predict long-term osteoarthritis during knee surgery

Lillian Pratt, Haodong Liu, Kathryn Suter, Marsha Maredia

M.Eng. Project Team develops a sensor for knee intraoperative measurements (SKIMs)


Team Members:

Haodong (Howdy) LiuHaodong (Howdy) Liu – I chose Cornell for its strong academic programs and networking opportunities. Also, because the campus is really pretty. I chose the BME M.Eng. to develop my technical skills and acquire more hands-on experience, which will enhance my prospects for securing a more advanced R&D position post-graduation.


Marsha MarediaMarsha Maredia – I wanted to gain more hands-on, industry-focused experience in the medical device field and to expand my knowledge/experience in specific areas. Cornell stood out because of its strong alumni network and opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration, especially with groups like GradSWE on campus.


Lillian PrattLillian Pratt – I wanted to learn more about industry before deciding to pursue medical school. Cornell’s M.Eng. program really stood out to me as industry-focused and Cornell has a vast network of alumni.


Kathryn SuterKathryn Suter – I chose Cornell specifically because its M.Eng. program allowed me too choose an industry or research project. While I believe that research is necessary, I learned that I much prefer hands-on industry-related experiences. In addition, Cornell has a vast range of resources for students to explore their interests.


What problem is your project addressing?

Our design team, Sensors for Knee Intraoperative Measurements (SKIMs), is developing a sensor to be used with patients who undergo knee surgery such as meniscal repair/ACL reconstructions. Understanding the relationship between joint contact mechanics and the likelihood of joint tissue degeneration is vital to the long-term success of knee surgeries. However, no sensor currently exists that can be used in minimally-invasive surgery (arthroscopy) to measure forces applied to the meniscus.

What is your solution?

SKIMs has worked together with Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in NYC to develop sensor hardware, a data acquisition system and an accessible graphical user interface that can record and display contact forces in real-time for intraoperative use by surgeons and researchers.

HSS is currently working with a company to obtain a more flexible sensor to measure these forces; however, this sensor lacks an integrated data acquisition system with which to record these measurements. Our solution incorporates a “boot” that interfaces with our sensor to measure loads directly applied to the meniscus. We have created a user interface that reads data from the sensor and displays it in a user-friendly way for surgeons and researchers to use in the operating room during surgical procedures. By inserting the sensor before and after the surgery, researchers and surgeons hope to see the effects of knee surgery on how the meniscus experiences load. With this data, it is possible that researchers will be able to predict the effects of surgery on osteoarthritis.

Any special aspects to your project?

We have had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers and surgeons at HSS, including Dr. Suzanne Maher and Dr. Tony Chen, on this project. It has been a great experience to consult with multiple stakeholders in an iterative design and prototyping process, getting valuable feedback at every step. We also had the opportunity to demo our prototype in a cadaveric setting, and to obtain surgeon feedback directly. This allowed us to address shortcomings in our design and is helping us deliver a more robust product. 

What have you learned or what has surprised you in this experience?

We have learned how to use LabVIEW to create a user-interface, to build and troubleshoot circuitry, and we have become proficient in surface-mount soldering. In addition to these technical skills, we've also learned how to communicate with multiple stakeholders, use the Agile SCRUM methodology to generate deliverables. Overall this experience has helped us improve our interpersonal skills, which have helped us more effectively work in a team. 

A surprising aspect of our experience has been creating effective work-arounds to new challenges and unpredictable roadblocks. 

What’s the next step/ future direction of your project?

The data acquisition system will be used for research purposes within HSS to determine how arthroscopic procedures affect loading within the knee and how this may affect long-term osteoarthritis. Once the HSS researching team has completed cadaveric testing, they plan to apply for IRB approval so that they can implement this system in patients.

Fun fact?

Our team has become really close over the course of the project and that has made difficult parts of the project more fun. We all feel comfortable joking with each other (Is your sensor running? If so, you better go catch it!), singing or doing yoga together, and treating ourselves to Paris Baguette.

Our team is unique because we’ve each been able to find our own niche within this project. For example, Marsha was our go-to user-interface designer, Kathryn became our “boot” expert, Lilly became a master at building hardware, and Howdy was the driving force behind our sensor-positioning algorithm.

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