Adhesive Ultrasound Patch Non-intrusively Monitors Blood Flow

Service Engineering

A flexible polymer ultrasound patch has been developed by engineers at the University of California San Diego, which can check the flow of blood through critical arteries and veins to organs, including the heart and brain. It has been made to be used on the neck or chest area, measuring blood pressure and heart function, precisely and non-intrusively detecting cardiovascular information up to 14cm inside the body. The invention and use of this device can recognise the start of cardiovascular problems much faster.

The adhesive device consists of a thin piece of stretchy polymer that sticks directly to the skin. Multiple ultrasound transducers, each the size of a millimetre, are implanted onto the patch and independently managed by a computer that makes the patch change shape.

“This type of wearable device can give you a more comprehensive, more accurate picture of what’s going on in deep tissues and critical organs like the heart and the brain, all from the surface of the skin.“

The patch has two core functions. In one mode, the ultrasound wave will be concentrated on one area at high intensity as all of the transducers can produce a beam onto the same point. In contrast, in the second mode, they are automated to work out of sync, producing ultrasound rays moving at diverse angles. There are currently 144 transducers arranges in a grid formation. When a high-intensity beam reaches a major blood vessel, movement from the red blood vessels alters how the waves are returned to the polymer patch. This change is identified and is used to generate graphic footage of the blood flow and mobile imaging of the heart’s walls.

While the technology is a significant advancement, it remains reliant on a power source and an apparatus. Sheng Xu’s team are currently focusing on making it a wireless device.

Sheng Xu, a UC San Diego professor of nanoengineering, said, “This type of wearable device can give you a more comprehensive, more accurate picture of what’s going on in deep tissues and critical organs like the heart and the brain, all from the surface of the skin.”

Chonghe Wang, a nanoengineering graduate and co-first author of the study, said, “Sensing signals at such depths is extremely challenging for wearable electronics. Yet, this is where the body’s most critical signals and the central organs are buried. We engineered a wearable device that can penetrate such deep tissue depths and sense those vital signals far beneath the skin. This technology can provide new insights for the field of healthcare.”

Muyang Lin, a nanoengineering PhD student at UC San Diego and research co-first author, expressed that “With the phased array technology, we can manipulate the ultrasound beam in the way that we want. This gives our device multiple capabilities: monitoring central organs as well as blood flow, with high resolution. This would not be possible using just one transducer.”

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