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Wearable Patch

The trend is clear. More and more medical tests and procedures will be less invasive than in the past. Smart devices of various types will be able to look into our bodies and measure what is going on. One of the areas where great progress is being made is the measurement of our central blood pressure. The blood pressure we are most familiar with is our peripheral blood pressure, measured with an inflatable cuff strapped around the upper arm. Central blood pressure is the pressure in the central blood vessels, which send blood directly from the heart to the major organs throughout our bodies. Experts say central blood pressure is more accurate than peripheral blood pressure and, in particular, is better at predicting heart disease. The question is how is central blood pressure measured?

The state-of-the-art clinical method requires inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in a patient’s arm, groin or neck and guiding it to the heart. There is a non-invasive alternative using a device called a tonometer, but it is not accurate or consistent. The breakthrough, developed by nanoengineering researchers at the University of California San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, is a wearable ultrasound patch which can non-invasively monitor blood pressure in arteries as much as 1.6 inches deep beneath the skin. Electronic Component News (ECN) Magazine, around since 1956, reports on electronic design, emerging technologies, and new products. See Wearable Ultrasound Patch Monitors Blood Pressure Inside Body for the full story on the new wearable.

The patch is not ready for clinics just yet, but the research is very promising. ECN quoted Dr. Brady Huang, a co-author on the paper and a radiologist at UC San Diego Health, as saying, “This has the potential to be a great addition to cardiovascular medicine. In the operating room, especially in complex cardiopulmonary procedures, accurate real-time assessment of central blood pressure is needed–this is where this device has the potential to supplant traditional methods.”

The patch has some shortcomings, which the next wave of research will address. Needed improvements include integrating a power source, data processing capability, and wireless communication into the patch. As the wearable patch technology evolves, the potential will extend beyond measuring central blood pressure. Dr. Sheng Xu, a professor of nanoengineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering, said, “Wearable devices have so far been limited to sensing signals either on the surface of the skin or right beneath it. But this is like seeing just the tip of the iceberg. By integrating ultrasound technology into wearables, we can start to capture a whole lot of other signals, biological events and activities going on way below the surface in a non-invasive manner.”