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Ultrasound said to offer better technique for measuring blood pressure


June 14, 2011

Nathalie Bijnens and Frans van de Vosse of Eindhoven University of Technology, presenting their new blood pressure measurement technique (Photo: Bart van Overbeeke)

Nathalie Bijnens and Frans van de Vosse of Eindhoven University of Technology, presenting their new blood pressure measurement technique (Photo: Bart van Overbeeke)

Not only is the old inflatable-cuff-around-the-arm an uncomfortable way of having one's blood pressure measured, but it turns out that it doesn't always provide enough information, either. If a physician wishes to check for vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, thrombosis or aneurysms, for instance, they're going to want to know how the blood is flowing in areas besides the patient's arm. Because the cuff works by temporarily stopping the blood flow, however, it's not going to work too well on a patient's neck or torso. Fortunately, scientists from The Netherlands' Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have discovered that ultrasound can be used instead, and that it provides more details.

Working with Italian medical imaging company Esaote, the TU/e researchers started their experiments using plastic tubes, worked their way up to carotid arteries from pigs, and are now performing trials on human subjects.

Using the new technique, blood pressure can be non-invasively measured at any point in the body. The skin in the area is first covered in gel, to maintain a good contact, and then the ultrasound scanner is applied. Utilizing sophisticated signal processing techniques, the system is able to visualize the blood flow and the blood vessel wall motion. By plugging that data into a mathematical model, the blood pressure at that exact location can be derived.

The technology also allows users to observe variations in blood pressure and flow, in time with the beating of the heart, which will provide information on what's going on "downstream" from that location.

Traditionally, if physicians which to measure the blood pressure in a specific part of the body, they have to insert a catheter equipped with a pressure sensor.

Although the initial trials of the ultrasound system have been promising, the researchers state that it will likely be several years before it is available for general use.

The research was recently published in the journal Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Google \"CCSVI\" My last girlfriend had an ultrasound revealing both jugular veins were blocked between 80% and 90% before undergoing balloon angioplasty...

Michael Johnson

Good, another 100K machine that goes ping, requires power to run, requires 2 months of training per user, constant calibration and maintenance(total cost now 250K), and no doubt a shorter life time of operation and provides perhaps gathers 25% more information then the old $100 inflatable cuff. Every physician that gets kickbacks from the manufacturer will see this as a necessity. Too bad most folks will never see it due to their inability to afford insurance.


@RWG: did we read the same article? It\'s a machine that goes \"ping\" and provides qualitatively different kinds of information AS WELL AS the information available from a good old fashioned cuff. Will it replace the cuff? probably not unless it comes down significantly in cost and becomes significantly more automated. Will it augment the cuff? you betcha! It looks to me like a very valuable diagnostic tool.

Bryan Paschke
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