College engineers develop wearable cardiac monitor patch

Published: December 2, 2022 8:57 PM EST
Updated: December 2, 2022 9:12 PM EST

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and 20% of heart attacks go unnoticed, which is why being able to predict changes in your heart, organs, and arteries is vital. Now, the first-ever wearable patch may be able to predict cardiovascular problems earlier than ever before.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a heart attack. Every 3.5 minutes, someone will die of a stroke. Research shows that 80% of all heart diseases can be prevented by knowing and managing risk factors. That is why the team inside a University of California San Diego lab is working on a new invention.

“This device can provide continuous long-term monitoring of what’s going on in the heart,” said Sheng Xu, PhD nanoengineer with UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering.

“We are working on soft, stretchable sensors,” said UCSD nanoengineer Boyu Liu.

“This is the ultrasonic patch we are developing,” said Sai Thou with UCSD material sciences.

This group of engineers is the first to develop a flexible, wearable ultrasound patch.

“With ultrasound, we can penetrate the tissue and get very deep targets,” Liu said.

In a sheet of flexible polymer is an array of millimeter-sized ultrasound transducers. Using this device we can measure the blood pressure waveform. When worn on the neck or chest, it can penetrate the tissue and monitor blood flow, blood pressure and heart function to predict a heart attack or stroke.

What the ultrasound patch looks like. CREDIT: WINK News

“We can use sophisticated algorithms to predict what’s going to happen in the next minute, in the next hour, or in the next few days,” Xu said.

Knowing how fast the blood flows through the vessels can help diagnose blood clots, heart valve problems, poor circulation and blockages in the arteries, and help doctors save your life.

In tests, the patch performed as well as a commercial ultrasound probe currently used in doctors’ offices. Although they still have more testing to do, the researchers at UCSD are hopeful that this could be made available to doctors and their patients in the next two years.