Funding awarded for feet temperature mapping

Funding has been awarded to the National Physical Laboratory to work on early identification of foot problems among diabetes sufferers.

TI foot

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has been awarded funding by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for a project that should help improve patient outcomes for people at risk of diabetic foot ulceration.

The project, which will be supported by the NIHR WoundTec HTC will exploit advances in thermal imaging and image analysis to produce a low-cost device that will generate temperature maps of patients’ feet, to provide early alerts of potential problems.

People with diabetes are prone to serious ulcers in their feet, which can become infected and lead to amputation. Early detection is critical to improve patient outcomes, enabling doctors to intervene to protect the foot before skin breakdown occurs and, in cases of infection, to give antibiotics promptly.

Before any visible signs of infection or abnormality in the feet, skin temperature rises by more than 1 °C. This is not necessarily infection-related, but can be caused by tissue breaking down from friction and the subsequent increased blood flow to the area.

The team aims to produce a low-cost device, which will operate in a point and shoot style and will automatically detect elevated temperature areas. Such early detection would give more than a week’s extra time to take preventative action, reducing or even eliminating the ulceration and associated risk of infection.

Diabetes is a rapidly growing problem for the NHS; an estimated five million people in the UK will be living with the condition by 2025 and foot-related problems among diabetes sufferers currently cost the NHS around £650 million annually, projected to rise to over £1.1 billion by 2025. NPL’s Temperature Group will be working in collaboration with NHS trusts in Manchester, Newcastle and King's College Hospital in London, the University of South Wales and PhotoMetrix to develop and test a system that will significantly reduce this increasing cost burden on the NHS.

Professor Graham Machin, Head of NPL’s Temperature Standards, said: “Diabetic foot ulceration is by far the single biggest cause of lower leg amputations in the NHS. Behind the rising costs there are more than 1500 major below knee amputations a year, with the contingent reduction in quality of life and poor life expectancy (80% death rate within 5 years of surgery). It is estimated that 80% of these are entirely preventable and this research will seek to improve the outcomes for all those patients.”

This project is funded through NIHR’s Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme.

Find out more about NPL's work on Temperature and Humidity

For further details, please contact Graham Machin


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