Sheng Xu and his team at the University of California, San Diego, who are working on a patch that can continuously measure someone’s central blood pressure—the pressure of blood coursing beyond your aorta, the artery in your heart that delivers blood to all the different parts of the body. It could make it a lot easier to monitor heart conditions and keep an eye on other vital organs like the liver, lungs, and brain.
The silicon elastomer patch works by sending out ultrasonic waves that penetrate the skin and reflect off the wearer’s tissues and blood. Those reflections are sent back to the sensor, and then to a laptop that processes the blood pressure data (for now, at least, the patch must be wired to a laptop and a power source, too). It is the first known wearable device that can sense deep below the surface of the skin.
A study on Xu and his colleagues’ work, published last week in Nature Biomedical Engineering, found that the patch could continuously and accurately monitor central blood pressure when placed on different parts of the body, though putting it on the neck was most effective. In the study, they compared it to a noninvasive and useful (but hard to operate) device called a tonometer, which places a pressure sensor on the skin; the differences between the two devices’ results were a fraction of what’s considered to be the acceptable range for error with a standard blood pressure device.
It’s also much less invasive than the current gold standard for measuring central blood pressure, which uses a catheter with a sensor on it that’s inserted near the heart. One of the researchers’ next steps is to test their patch against such a catheter to see how it measures up.
It could make it a lot easier to monitor heart conditions and keep an eye on other vital organs like the liver, lungs, and brain.
It’s also much less invasive.
The silicon elastomer patch works by sending out ultrasonic waves that penetrate the skin and reflect off the wearer’s tissues and blood.