Prospective Applications of Microwaves in Medicine : Microwave Sensors for Orthopedic Monitoring and Burn Depth Assessment

Abstract: In recent years, the use of microwave techniques for medical diagnostics has experienced impressive developments. It has demonstrated excellent competencies in various modalities such as using non-ionizing electromagnetic waves, providing non-invasive diagnoses, and having the ability to penetrate human tissues within the GHz range. However, due to anatomical, physiological, and biological variations in the human body, certain obstacles are present. Moreover, there are accuracy problems such as the absence of numerical models and experimental data, difficulty in conducting tests due to safety issues with human subjects, and also practical restrictions in clinical implementation. With the presence of these issues, a better understanding of the microwave technique is essential to further improve its medical application and to introduce alternative diagnostic methods that can detect and monitor various medical conditions in real time.The first part of this thesis focuses on measurement systems for the microwave technique in terms of sensor design and development, numerical analysis, permittivity measurement, and phantom fabrication. The aim is to investigate the feasibility of flexible systems with different fields of application including a microwave sensor system for measuring the healing progression of bone defects present in lower extremity trauma, bone regeneration in craniotomy for craniosynostosis treatments, and dielectric variation for burn injuries. The microwave sensor which utilizes the contrast in dielectric constant between various tissues was used as the primary sensor for the proposed application. This involved detailed optimization of the sensor for greater sensitivity. The experimental work carried out in the lab environment showed that the microwave sensor was able to detect the contrast in dielectric properties so that it can give an indication of the healing status for actual clinical scenarios.The second part of the thesis is making a significant step towards its practical implementation by establishing a system that can detect and monitor the rate of healing progression with fast data acquisition speed of microseconds, and developing an efficient user interface to convert raw microwave data into legible clinical information in terms of bone healing and burn injuries. As an extension to this thesis, clinical studies were conducted and ethical approval for conducting tests on human subjects was obtained for the development of a microwave medical system. The results showed a clear difference in healing progressions due to high detection capability in terms of dielectric properties of different human tissues. All of these contributions enable a portable system to complement existing medical applications with the aim of providing more advanced healthcare systems.