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Piezo-resistive fibers enable "blood pressure watch" with continuous monitoring

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June 13, 2013

Initial prototypes of the 'blood pressure watch' with the strap made from piezo-resistive ...

Initial prototypes of the 'blood pressure watch' with the strap made from piezo-resistive fibers

Blood pressure is one of the main vital signs, measuring the pressure of the blood upon the walls of blood vessels as it is pumped around the body by the heart. High blood pressure, or hypertension, places increased stress on the heart and can be an indicator of other potentially fatal health problems, such as stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. Most people will have had their blood pressure tested using a sphygmomanometer on a visit to the doctor, but a new wristband device is set to provide a more convenient and continuous way to keep a watch for signs of trouble.

Developed by Switzerland-based company STBL Medical Research AG, the new “blood pressure watch” relies on a wristband made from piezo-resistive fibers developed at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA). These fibers measure the contact pressure of the device on the skin to overcome the problem of the device slipping on the wrist or muscle tension that can affect the measurements.

Being electrically conductive, the fibers are able to detect any movement or change in pressure, which EMPA says enables the device to correct for any changes in signal strength and increase the accuracy of the sensor by more than 70 percent. This allows for continuous blood pressure monitoring without the use of the arm-numbing pressure cuffs used by sphygmomanometers.

With cardiovascular diseases being the most common cause of death worldwide, EMPA says there are around 60 to 70 million blood pressure measuring devices sold annually. However, these do not offer continuous monitoring in the patient’s natural environment. Ticking both these boxes, the device has the potential to detect the early warning signs of a stroke or heart attack and alert the wearer so they could take action before serious damage is done.

The device is currently undergoing clinical trials, which have seen measurements taken in parallel with an invasive arterial catheter system that also allows continuous monitoring. The researchers say the results thus far have been “very promising.” The device will be much cheaper than such measuring methods, with the team claiming the blood pressure watch will be around ten times cheaper than existing 24-hour monitoring devices used in hospitals that can cost up to 6,000 Swiss francs (approximately US$6,500).

In addition to a medical monitoring device, the team also plans to release a “slimmed down” model aimed at the sports market.

Sources: EMPA, STBL

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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4 Comments

I had a 24 hour blood pressure monitoring device on that couldn't be valued at over $6,000. It pressured up every so often with in 24 hours to monitor my blood pressure.

Ivan Schiller
13th June, 2013 @ 09:54 am PDT

@Ivan Schiller, I too just finished one and I agree my device didn't look too impressive. Three AA batteries, a regular looking BP cuff, and the "brick" (about 5"x5"x.75") had a very plain LCD display.

If it was affordable (sub $100) and decent looking, I'd get one just so I can track my BP myself. I'd say give technology another 7 years and we'll have a small sticker that can be placed on the back of our regular watch that takes the BP reading and makes it available via RFID or Bluetooth.

Dan Linder
13th June, 2013 @ 10:46 am PDT

If I found out that I had mistakenly paid $6,500 for a blood pressure watch, I would stroke out.

kilgatron
13th June, 2013 @ 05:19 pm PDT

Too ugly, too limited in scope, definitely too expensive! Give it a Bluetooth link to a iPhone or tablet and have it read pulse, BP and show the flamin' time.

The Skud
13th June, 2013 @ 06:55 pm PDT
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