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The HAILO (Hand Arthritis Imperial Leeds Oxford) study is a collaborative project to develop a smart splint for thumb base osteoarthritis (OA). It is funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust.


It is estimated that 20 percent of the UK population over 55 years old has thumb base OA.

Patients suffer from pain and loss of function, which impacts on their ability to work and perform activities of daily living. There is no cure for hand OA. The main non-surgical treatments are pain relief and removable orthoses (splints). Surgical treatment is preserved for severe, end-stage disease.

Tens of thousands of splints are prescribed on the NHS each year. Some are off the shelf, but many are custom-made thermoplastic splints. It remains unclear whether patients are receiving a clinical and cost-effective intervention.

Aims and objectives

The aim of the study is to validate a base of thumb splint with a sensor array that provides data regarding patient adherence to splinting and the biomechanical performance of the splint.

This would then be ready for use in a clinical trial with splint-arm. The objectives are:

  • Creation of patient and clinician end-user product and usability specifications for splint and future clinical trial.
  • Development of multi-element force sensor, integrated with a commercial thumb splint.
  • Development of mobile data storage to support sensor recording within laboratory and clinical sessions.

For patients

The smart splint has completed laboratory testing. The next phase will be a small study in patients with thumb base OA. Further information will be made available in due course.


Oxford initiated the study and are providing the clinical expertise alongside the patient and public involvement. Dr Alazmani and Prof Culmer are leading the sensor development and Dr Kedgley’s group are performing pre-clinical testing of the splint biomechanics. 


University of Oxford  (coordinating site)

Matthew D. Gardiner (Lead)

Prof Tonia Vincent (PI)

University of Leeds 

Dr Dominic Jones (PDRA)

Prof Pete Culmer

Dr Ali Alazmani

Imperial College London

Dr Vasiliki Vardakastani (PDRA)

Dr Angela Kedgley


Matthew Gardiner, Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology

HAILO logo

Selected publications