A clinical and engineering study on thermal therapy



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A new heat modality was developed based upon the principles of fluidization. This design uses a fluidized airsolid system as the heat transfer medium in thermal therapy application. The new device known as the fluidotherapy unit is currently in use at St. Anthony Center, Houston, Texas, for clinical evaluations. Following the development of the fluidotherapy unit, an engineering and clinical assessment of three modalities in thermal therapy was carried out. The devices evaluated were a) the fluidotherapy unit, b) a whirlpool, and c) a paraffin wax/oil bath. The objective of the study was to compare their Relative effectiveness in delivering heat into a human hand. Steady state heat transfer in hand was considered rather than the transient heating. The amount of heat absorbed by a submerged hand in fifteen minutes were measured. The ratios were found to be 3.9 : 1.3 : 1.0; the fluidotherapy unit was observed to be the most effective heating device. In fifteen minutes, 17.2 Btu was delivered into a hand by the fluidotherapy unit, 5.6 Btu by the whirlpool, and 4.8 Btu by the paraffin. In addition to its relative high efficacy as a thermal therapeutic agent the fluidotherapy unit provides good patient motility. Finally a clinical study on the effects of prescription time on patient progress in rehabilitation was conducted. Active joint motions of patients were measured daily, the increase in joint motion was taken to represent the progress profile of a patient. Results obtained in this study were limited, but indicate that longer treatment times are beneficial.