Researchers have developed a new wearable ultrasound device that comes in the form of a patch and can non-invasively monitors blood pressure deep in the arteries.
Developed by a team of researchers led by the University of California San Diego, the breakthrough is able to monitor deep beneath the skin and thus could help people detect cardiovascular problems earlier on in life, and with greater precision.
According to the scientists' tests, the patch performed as well as other standard clinical methods to measure blood pressure.
These applications include real-time, continuous monitoring of blood pressure changes in patients with heart or lung disease, as well as patients who are critically ill or undergoing surgery.
The patch works by using ultrasound, so it could potentially be used to non-invasively track other vital signs and physiological signals from places deep inside the body.
"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," said Sheng Xu, a professor of nanoengineering at the university's Jacobs School of Engineering.
"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."
The new ultrasound patch can continuously monitor central blood pressure in major arteries as deep as four centimeters below the skin.
The physicians involved with the study say the technology would be useful in various inpatient procedures.
"This has the potential to be a great addition to cardiovascular medicine," added Dr. Brady Huang, a co-author on the paper and radiologist at UC San Diego Health.
"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."
However, the researchers note that the patch still has a long way to go before it reaches the clinic. Improvements include integrating a power source, data processing units and wireless communication capability into the patch.
"Right now, these capabilities have to be delivered by wires from external devices. If we want to move this from benchtop to bedside, we need to put all these components on board," Xu added.
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