Stick-on ultrasound patch helps monitor cardiovascular health

July 28, 2021
Stick-on ultrasound patch helps monitor cardiovascular health

A new, wearable ultrasound patch that essentially tracks the rate at which blood flows through a patient’s body can help warn of impending cardiovascular problems such as blockages and blood clot. Engineers at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD), US, developed the patch to continuously monitor blood flow and pressure, and heart function in real time in a non-invasive manner.

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UCSD professor of nanoengineering Sheng Xu, whose team led the device’s development, said it ensures, “a comprehensive, more accurate picture of what’s going on deep in tissues and critical organs like the heart and brains, all from the surface of the skin.”


A single patch – made up of a thin sheet of soft, stretchable polymer – can accurately sense and measure cardiovascular signals as deep as 14 cm (5.5 in) beneath the skin, thanks to a 12 by 12 grid array of millimeter-sized ultrasound transducers known as an ultrasound phased array. The transducers emit ultrasound waves that can penetrate through a major blood vessel and encounter movement from red blood cells; movement changes or shifts in the reflected ultrasound waves will be picked up and analysed accordingly by the patch.

The phased array has two operational modes: all the transducers can either be synchronised to transmit ultrasound waves together to produce a centralised, high-intensity ultrasound beam; or, be programmed to transmit out of sync to produce a wider-reaching ultrasound beam.

“With the phased array technology, we can manipulate the ultrasound beam in the way we want,” explained UCSD postgraduate student Muyang Lin. “This gives our device multiple capabilities: monitoring central organs as well as blood flow, with high resolution. This would not be possible with [just] one transducer.”

Professor Xu highlighted that the ultrasound beam produced can also be tilted to probe different areas in the body – another innovation in the field of wearable technology (existing wearable sensors typically only monitor areas directly underneath it).

In tests, the patch performed as well as a commercial ultrasound probe used in the clinic and accurately recorded blood flow in major blood vessels. The patch is still hard-wired to a computer and power source, but plans call for it to ultimately be self-contained and wireless to better enable “point of care or continuous at-home monitoring.”

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Category: Features, Technology & Devices

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