MTIF is leading a project to create a ‘breakthrough’ smart textile arm sleeve which will be an ‘effective, unobtrusive and easy-to-use’ treatment for patients in their own homes. As well as affecting the quality of life of patients, this can also impact the NHS due to continued long-term primary care.

The garment will be a highly-breathable fabric with seamlessly integrated and flexible printed circuits and electrodes. It will increase the circulation of the lymphatic system, the network of channels and glands which work to remove excess fluid in the body. And it will be durable, washable and adaptable to fit different patients.

Lymphoedema is a chronic condition caused by fluid collecting in the soft tissue of the body, usually in the arms or legs, and there is no cure or proven pharmaceutical treatment. It is estimated that up to 250 million people worldwide are currently suffering from different types of lymphoedema which, if left untreated can cause patients long-term physical and psychological problems.

The project will initially develop technology for the arm before being adapted for other parts of the body such as the legs, chest, face or neck. It is being created in partnership with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and with £450,000 funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation.

The potential of this project could radically change the management of patients with Lymphoedema and the use of compression in particular. It has personally been one of my own goals to see active compression and I am delighted to work with Dr Wei on this project.

Christine Moffatt CBE, Clinical Professor of Skin Integrity at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

In the UK alone more than 200,000 people are affected by lymphoedema each year. While there are some treatments to reduce pain and discomfort, their long-term effectiveness in treating the problem rather than addressing a symptom is uncertain. There is a need for an effective device in a convenient and wearable format that can be used by patients in the home to improve their quality of life. This will be a breakthrough smart medical textile garment which will be effective, unobtrusive and easy-to-use, stimulating lymph circulation and significantly improving the treatment of patients with lymphoedema.

Dr Yang Wei, expert in electronic textiles and electronic engineering at Nottingham Trent University