WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- There’s a new, flexible, non-invasive stick-on patch that can continuously measure central blood pressure.
- The patch is the first known wearable device that can sense deep below the surface of the skin and could be useful for monitoring patients at home.
- The ultrasound patches could also have uses beyond the body, such as finding small cracks in complicated mechanical parts like those in planes.
Having your blood pressure checked usually meant a visit to a doctor and having a bulky cuff wrapped around your arm. But in the future, it’s possible that all you’ll need is a simple stick-on patch no bigger than a postage stamp.
Sheng Xu, one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 in 2018, and his team at the University of California, San Diego, are working on a silicon elastomer patch that can continuously measure someone’s central blood pressure.
The patch could make it a lot easier to monitor heart conditions and other vital organs such as the lungs, liver, and brain.
The device works by sending out ultrasonic waves that penetrate the skin and reflect off the wearer’s blood and tissues. The reflections are then sent back to the sensor, and to a laptop that processes the data – for now, at least, the patch must be wired to a laptop and a power source.
The patch is the first known wearable device that can sense deep below the surface of the skin, and because it’s non-invasive, there’s no risk of infection. It can also provide a lot more information than you can get with a standard blood pressure cuff, and could be useful for monitoring patients at home.
Placing the patch right near the jugular vein can also measure how much blood is streaming into the heart, which makes it easier to spot dehydration.
A study published last week in Nature Biomedical Engineering found that while the patch could accurately and continuously monitor central blood pressure when placed on different parts of the body, placing it on the neck was most effective.
Compared to a similarly non-invasive and useful device called a tonometer, which places a pressure sensor on the skin and is also hard to operate, the difference was only a fraction of what’s considered to be the acceptable range for error with a standard blood pressure device.
One of the researchers’ next steps is to test the patch against the current gold standard but invasive procedure for measuring central blood pressure: a catheter with a sensor inserted near the heart.
Not everyone is convinced, however. Mohan Thanikachalam, a cardiac surgeon at Tufts University, believes that a cuff that monitors peripheral blood pressure could still be more useful and “has more predictive value in terms of outcomes in the future.”
Xu believes that the ultrasound patches could also have uses beyond the body, such as finding small cracks in complicated mechanical parts like those in planes.
Source: MIT Tech Review