The University of Manchester's William Lee Innovation Centre (WLIC) has unveiled a new medical system which knits made to measure compression stockings.
The system, known as Scan2Knit, will be used to treat patients suffering from venous diseases such as leg ulcers and may potentially be used to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis.
Approximately 450,000 people in the UK are prone to leg ulcers and 130,000 elderly patients have active ulcers at any one time.
Currently the only treatment for venous leg ulcers is to apply constant pressure by tightly wrapping elastic bandages around the affected area of the leg. These are often uncomfortable and have to be applied by trained medical staff weekly.
The Scan2Knit system produces stockings made from unique combination of fibres designed for comfort which can be slipped on and off like conventional stockings.
The system uses a 3D limb scanner to measure the size and shape of the lower leg and foot. This information is then transmitted to a dedicated electronic knitting machine in the WLIC which produces a bespoke stocking designed to apply a prescribed three-dimensional pressure profile to the leg.
Dr Tilak Dias, Head of the WLIC, said: "Sustained graduated compression is the key to healing a venous ulcer. Currently this involves four layers of compression bandaging which needs to be reapplied weekly or twice weekly".
"Scan2Knit allows the doctor to prescribe the desired pressures for differing clinical applications. It produces a bandage which is seamless, fits precisely and can be delivered to the clinic for simple fitting."
The Scan2Knit system has been developed in partnership with the Vascular Studies Unit at South Manchester University Hospital which is directed by Professor Charles McCollum and with major funding from the Wellcome Trust.
Dr Dias added: "The substantial cost of dressings and bandages is small compared with the time commitment for highly trained nursing staff. Our focus needs to move from treatment to prevention where this technology may have a substantial role."