3 Clinical Applications of Computerized Plantar Pressure Analysis

Medical plantar pressure measurement devices (PMDs) have been important tools for gait analysis since their invention, and although historically overlooked, plantar pressures (alongside temporal and spatial parameters) are critical aspects of gait analysis.

Analysis of underfoot pressure and foot/floor interactions provide much more than an in-depth analysis of foot function. Similar to temporal and spatial measurements, plantar pressures can be used to indicate or evaluate the degree of other underlying health conditions. Identification of atypical plantar pressure values can also be used to direct treatment options or modify a patient’s management program.

So, what kind of assessments can plantar pressure measurements be used for beyond gait analysis? Here are three additional clinical applications for plantar pressure analysis.

Woman modeling first three hard surface stances of the BESS test

BESS Test Hard Surface Stances
Photo Credit: Physio-Pedia

1. Concussion Assessment & Monitoring 

The Balance Error Scoring System (BESS) test is the industry standard for concussion assessment and diagnosis. Developed by the University of North Carolina, the BESS test gauges the effect of a mild head injury on the static postural stability of a patient while standing in various stances.

The main disadvantage of the BESS test is that it does not offer any objective measures of physical performance. The test results are based on the clinician’s subjective observation of how many times the patient falters.

Computerized plantar pressure analysis, could combine the BESS score with other clinically relevant parameters of sway and balance to provide a more finely resolved balance score report. This objective information could then be tracked over time to assist clinicians and athletes in making return-to-play decisions following head injuries.

Image from a Stepscan plantar pressure analysis highlighting areas of pressure compared to a healthy, normal foot's pressure distribution

Image of a plantar pressure analysis and comparison using the Stepscan System

2. Diabetic Foot Screening

Diabetic foot ulceration is a preventable long-term complication of diabetes that is caused mainly by skin breakdown due to repetitive mechanical stress. Research indicates that peak plantar pressures contribute to skin breakdown leading to diabetic foot ulcers.

Computerized plantar pressure measurement instruments such as Stepscan, can help clinicians detect overloaded areas and quantitatively measure weight distribution and asymmetry (how the body is compensating), giving them time to identify patients at-risk of injury/ulceration and implement preventative measures before a serious problem occurs.

Screenshot of Stepscan Dynamic Pressure Gait Assessment showing footsteps and underfoot pressure distributions

Footsteps and underfoot pressure distributions from a Stepscan gait assessment

3. Overall Health Assessment

Computerized plantar pressure analysis can also be useful in the assessment of patients without acute conditions. Used in an overall mobility, plantar pressure can reveal much about the health of patients. Computerized assessment of a patient’s walking and static plantar pressures can monitor health and overall wellness and recognize changes or issues early on (while still undetectable to the naked eye). Objective measurements from computerized assessments provide a track record of a patient’s physical performance and support preventative, rather than reactive, treatment plans. 

Revenue Diversification: An Added Benefit

The pandemic has shaken every aspect of the healthcare industry and physiotherapy and rehabilitative medicine providers have not been immune. Patient referrals evaporated for many providers as elective surgeries and non-urgent treatments were put on hold. Add the challenges of providing telehealth, and therapists have had to get creative in how they find new patients.

Diversifying service offerings is one way to bring new patients to your clinic. Computerized plantar pressure analysis is not yet common in clinical practices. Modern technology, such as the Stepscan System, make taking accurate, objective measurements of your patient’s plantar pressures time efficient, easily fitting into existing clinic workflow. Adding plantar pressure analysis to your clinical practice allows you to offer new services, like those listed above, diversifying revenue channels and attracting new patients.

Learn More About Computerized Pressure Analysis

The Stepscan System offers predetermined reports for all of the applications discussed in this article. The Stepscan Concussion, Dynamic Pressure, and Mobility modules are available to both new and existing Stepscan customers. Want to learn more? Talk to a Stepscan Product Specialist today.

Curious what else a medical-grade plantar pressure measurement device can be used for? Check out our blog post about 10 Things you can do with a Pressure Sensitive Floor.

About Crystal Trevors

Crystal is the founder and owner of Stepscan Technologies Inc. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of New Brunswick, a Master of Science in Biology from the University of Prince Edward Island, and a Master in Business Administration from the University of Guelph. Her business and research interests include corporate performance management and reporting, process improvement and operational efficiencies. Operating Stepscan is a dream come true for her, allowing her to combine her love of biology, research and business, every day.

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