The device, which is made up of a small pump and a smartphone, was developed by the South Australian Biomedical Engineering Research and Teaching team at Flinders Medical Centre and was modelled on a angiosterrometre – a device that can pull and hold suction for 30 seconds.
Lymphoedema Research Unit Director Professor Neil Piller, who approached the teaching team to develop the device, said he hoped the device would help clinicians detect the condition much earlier – before the limbs start to swell – and allow for proactive management of the condition.
He said the device works by creating a negative pressure under the cup, which is held for 30 seconds. While the pressure is held, the smartphone app is able to take video and pictures showing changes in the skin colour – a sign of potential vascular problems.
Lipoedema is a chronic heritable condition, in which the micro circulation (small blood and lymph vessels) do not form normally and thereby do not function as they should.
The condition typically progresses to the abnormal build-up of fat cells in the legs, thighs and buttocks and is most commonly found in women.
Professor Piller said previously many patients with lipoedema could not be diagnosed until the condition had fully developed, meaning treatment was more reactive.
The Lymphoedema Research Unit is currently undertaking a pilot trial with the device, comparing the skin changes in patients with clinically-diagnosed lipoedema to those who have lymphoedema and those without either condition.
Flinders Medical Center