Skip to main content

Wearable Ultrasound Patch Monitors Blood Pressure

Posted on by

Placement of the blood pressure patch

Caption: Worn on the neck, the device records central blood pressure in the carotid artery (CA), internal jugular vein (Int JV) and external jugular vein (Ext JV).
Credit: Adapted from Wang et al, Nature Biomedical Engineering

There’s lots of excitement out there about wearable devices quietly keeping tabs on our health—morning, noon, and night. Most wearables monitor biological signals detectable right at the surface of the skin. But, the sensing capabilities of the “skin” patch featured here go far deeper than that.

As described recently in Nature Biomedical Engineering, when this small patch is worn on the neck, it measures blood pressure way down in the central arteries and veins more than an inch beneath the skin [1]. The patch works by emitting continuous ultrasound waves that monitor subtle, real-time changes in the shape and size of pulsing blood vessels, which indicate rises or drops in pressure.

We’ve all had an inflatable cuff wrapped around an arm to measure our peripheral blood pressure. But the more accurate predictor of a developing heart problem is the central blood pressure. That’s the flow of blood through the aorta, the main artery that carries blood to the rest of the body.

The problem is getting a gold standard read on central blood pressure requires inserting a catheter into a blood vessel and guiding it with great precision to the aorta. That’s not practical. While non-invasive, handheld devices have been developed for measuring central blood pressure in more distal major blood vessels, such as the carotid artery in the neck, it’s been tough to get accurate readings.

That’s why a team of researchers, led by Sheng Xu and graduate student Chonghe Wang, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, decided to merge ultrasound technology with wearables. Their prototype wearable ultrasound patch consists of a thin sheet of silicone polymer with elastic qualities. The sheet is patterned with a visible array of small electronic parts connected by lightweight, spring-shaped copper wires that can stretch, bend, and twist without breaking.

Then there is the customized software. It allows continuous monitoring of central blood pressure based on the ultrasound readout. Each peak and valley reading in the blood pressure real-time measurement, called a waveform, represents the heart’s normal activity. Any hiccup in the blood pressure waveform can be used to indicate a problem, such as an irregular heartbeat or impending heart failure.

The patch has already been tested while worn on the wrist, forearm, neck, and foot. The researchers also tried it out during exercise and rest. So far, the new device appears to function better than any commercially available, non-invasive device for measuring central blood pressure.

For the current patch to monitor central blood pressure, it must be hooked up to external wires. But the researchers envision a future wireless version, in which a power source and data processing units are fully integrated into the patch. The hope is that one day soon their device will offer round-the-clock monitoring of central blood pressure. That could utterly transform our management of hypertension.

References:

[1] Monitoring of the central blood pressure waveform via a conformal ultrasonic device. Wang C, Li X, Hu H, Zhang, L, Huang Z, Lin M, Zhang Z, Yun Z, Huang B, Gong H, Bhaskaran S, Gu Y, Makihata M, Guo Y, Lei Y, Chen Y, Wang C, Li Y, Zhang T, Chen Z, Pisano AP, Zhang L, Zhou Q, Xu S. Nature Biomedical Engineering. September 2018, 687-695.

Links:

Sensors (National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering/NIH)

Ultrasound (NIBIB)

High Blood Pressure (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute/NIH)

Sheng Xu Lab (University of California San Diego, La Jolla)

NIH Support: National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering

13 Comments

  • Chris Manzo says:

    Where can i buy one?

  • Johann Sproule says:

    Incredible, what I’ve been looking for … improved measures, continuous, non invasive. I’m ready to test and available

  • Angela Rozewski says:

    Can doctors order this now? Would love to get this for my son who has dysautonomia and BP spikes up to 200/180 or as low as 54/37 —

  • norma lesher says:

    How do I get one and is there a study I can participate in?

  • Jenn says:

    Seems like this could also be useful for monitoring babies in utero during childbirth. The usual monitoring devices can’t handle women moving around (the best way to keep the birth progressing) so they confine women to lying on their backs in bed, the worst position. Maybe this could help.

  • Robert Thomas says:

    would like to get more info on the patch,maybe join the research

  • Virginia L Singleton says:

    I would love to participate in a study program. I monitor my blood pressure at home and it varies a lot but when I’m at the doctors office it is always fine. This would be such an accurate way to have it monitored and treated.

  • Dakota Angileri says:

    I would love to participate in a study. I have POTS and use other methods to monitor my blood pressure but find it difficult to have a blood pressure cuff on me 24/7

  • Lana says:

    Is this available for purchase?

    • Moderator says:

      Thanks for your comment. Several have inquired about how they can get more information on using the ultrasound patch to monitor their blood pressure. As noted at the end of the post, the patch is still in the early stages of research and more work is needed to further refine its capabilities.The blog will certainly continue to track this NIH-supported research as it progresses.

  • IDALIA M ROMERO says:

    YES, WHERE TO BUY PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

  • Elisabeth Scheu says:

    I would be very happy to take part in further research of this product, to have it be wireless and widely available in the future!

  • B.Cole says:

    How does it transmit the bp data? I would love to have this but I work in a secure building that does not allow wireless or bluetooth.

Leave a Comment