Scientists at Lancaster University have developed a new device to test osteoarthritis. And, it does so without the doctor having to undertake a series of tests.

The new device, which works on the principles of acoustics, scans the knees for sounds that could indicate deterioration of the knee joint. The device has been developed by researchers at the universities of Lancaster and Central Lancashire.

The techniques involve interpretation of sound waves emitted by the knees. It works on the assumption that knee joints with osteoarthritis make different noises compared to the knees of healthy people.

The device has been tested in a study that extended for two-years in over 50 people. It device collects the sounds and analyzes it in various ways including the amount of sound and its characteristics. The onset of osteoarthritis causes the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones in the knee joint to decay and get damaged. It becomes worn out resulting in the bone directly rubbing on bone and causing immense pain.

"We found that by measuring and analyzing high frequency sounds released within knee joints during movement we could tell whether or not the person had osteoarthritis of the knee, and also their age group,'' says research leaders Professor John Goodacre and Professor Lik-Kwan Shark.

"At the moment it's looking very optimistic, and I can envisage that this device could be used as both an early diagnostic tool for GPs, and potentially as a quick, simple means of detecting the progression of osteoarthritis, reducing the need for MRI or other expensive and less accessible techniques," Prof. Goodacre says.