After a bad ankle sprain I went to physical therapy for rehab. The therapist used a simple tape measure to check for swelling. With all of today's modern technology is this really the best way to measure?

A simple tape measure is still used in many clinics to look for swelling. It's even used to measure patients for custom-fit stockings used with burns or severe edema after surgery.

It's important that a plastic tape measure is used. It should be one that hasn't been stretched out. The same tape should be used each time. Measurements can be compared from the normal side to the injured side and from one day to the next.

There is a device called the Perometer to take accurate measurements of the arm or leg. This piece of equipment costs up to $50,000. It's used most often by research centers. Infra-red rays allow the Perometer to take length, circumference, and volume measurements of an extremity.

The biggest plus of this tool is to show very early signs of swelling or edema. Such changes wouldn't be seen with an ordinary tape measure. The Perometer also gives the therapist a much quicker and more reliable reading to compare results before and after treatment. Since it's computerized, graphs can be printed out to show changes.