The phrase “motion capture software” generally brings to mind blockbuster, special-effects-laden films or the latest high-tech mechanical simulation of the latest automobile prototype. However, motion capture software has been leaving its innovative mark on a number of other industries, most notably healthcare. This advanced technology has allowed the quality of healthcare to improve for many people with debilitating injuries, chronic conditions that effect their ability to move and function in their daily lives, as well as changing the way many physical therapy specialists approach an individual’s rehabilitation and care.

Optical motion capture utilizes computer software to record the physical movements of people or objects, capturing them and rendering a three-dimensional computer model that recreates the person’s or object’s movements, allowing for better analysis of complex motion. In medicine, motion capture software is most often used in gait analysis, but a variety of different applications for the technology are also being explored, including the connection between the brain and body motion, as well as hand-eye coordination. Motion capture is also being utilized in the treatment of conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, and is assisting doctors and medical technicians in using advanced diagnostic equipment such as MRI, as well as helping them to improve skills such as endotracheal intubation.

Gait Analysis
Gait analysis uses motion capture technology, as well as clinical evaluation by physical therapists and kinesiologists, among others, to evaluate gait and general body movement. For individuals who have conditions that affect how they are able to move, whether it be walking or general body movement, gait analysis is utilized to identify problems due to posture or injuries and help physical therapists and surgeons choose the right treatments for that individual.

Clinical Motion Analysis Laboratories, or MALs, use optical motion capture technology to record walking patterns and upper limb movements. This data will consist of three-dimensional movements recorded by the sensors placed on bony points on the body. In addition to this kinematic data, the MAL will record the kinetics involved in the body’s movement and muscle activity connected to each joint movement (EMG or electromyography). In addition, a complete evaluation by a physical therapist will be completed; this will include measuring range of motion, the strength, size, and degree of toning of muscles, as well as a number of other orthopedic and neurological tests.

By combining the clinical data and the motion data together, a complete picture of the individual’s movement patterns will be produced, giving physicians, physical therapists and surgeons the ability to evaluate treatment options based on the data and assist the individual in choosing the best course to take to improve their quality of life.

Gait analysis is particularly useful in evaluating treatment options for children and adults who have cerebral palsy (CP). The 3-D analysis produced in an MAL not only helps with selecting initial treatments, but also proves very valuable when re-evaluating individual’s condition and determining progress with specific treatments.

Motion Capture, Medical Training, and Education
Motion capture technology is also proving useful in improving the education and training of healthcare personnel including physicians, paramedics and nurses. One example involves capturing the detailed movements needed to perform endotracheal intubation. Usually done under emergency circumstances, endotracheal intubation takes not only thorough knowledge of anatomy and physiology, but also a great deal of skill with the controlled movements needed to insert the laryngoscope and tube safely and accurately.

Motion capture is also being used give medical students insight into biomechanics and the subtleties of diagnosis, even capturing breathing rates and subtle ticks. OpenStage Software, which allows motion capture to be accomplished without sensors or calibration, makes the process even easier and more accurate. Osteopaths and chiropractors are also making use of motion capture to assist in diagnosing spinal conditions and evaluating treatment options.

Motion Capture and MRI Diagnostics
MRIs are a valuable diagnostic tool used in hospitals and clinics to give doctors a look inside the human body. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses radio waves and a magnetic field to create visual images of the organs and other tissues within the body, providing different types of information than the other medical imaging tests such as X-ray or CT scan.

Motion capture technology is now becoming a part of some MRIs, enhancing the quality of the data captured. Specialty materials allow the movements of hands or fingers to be captured, while electronic components process the information away from the MRI room. Combining motion capture with MRI machines allows medical professionals to have an individual patient do particular actions while the brain’s activity is being documented through imaging.

Medical Innovations and Motion Capture Software
Medicine and technology work hand-in-hand in the quest to improve people’s health and well-being. Advanced motion capture technology is being used to great effect throughout the healthcare industry, assisting in treatment development, increasing clinical testing accuracy and improving training and education programs.