Diagnosing the kind of noises a knee makes could be a new way to treat osteoarthritis.

The technique, known as acoustic emission, helps engineers detect faults in bridges and airplanes and can also be used to spot the difference between healthy and osteoarthritic knees.

For the first time, researchers using acoustic emission have been able to distinguish between the high-frequency sound associated with arthritic knees compared with sounds that occur naturally in ageing knee joints.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, which gradually wears down the cartilage in between bones, reports the Daily Mail.

As a result, the device could be the first quick test for the condition, taking just minutes.

“We believe that this device could be used as both an early diagnostic tool... reducing the need for MRI scans or other expensive, less accessible techniques,” says John Goodacre of Lancaster University’s new School of Health and Medicine.

Up to seven million people in Britain are thought to have long-term health problems as a result of arthritis, and it is estimated that more than 550,000 men and women have evidence of moderate to severe disease of the knees.

All moving surfaces in joints produce noise, but the research shows that when those surfaces become damaged by arthritis, they have a different sound signature.

RELATED NEWS

When your knees hurtApril 2, 2010

Stop the pain in its trackJanuary 23, 2010

Women suffer chronic pain more than menAugust 14, 2010

When stiff neck is a painMay 10, 2010

More In: Rx | Health | Sci-Tech | Science