Skin patch "digital tattoo" can continuously track blood pressure and more

Ask anyone who spent time in the hospital what one of the most annoying things they have to go through is, and many of them will tell you it's the traditional blood pressure cuff used to monitor their blood pressure continually. Needing continual blood pressure measurements means that an automated cuff inflates and deflates on a set schedule or the patient has to be woke up for measurements continuously throughout the night. Engineers from the University of California San Diego have developed a new soft, stretchy skin patch able to be worn on the neck.

The skin patches can continuously track blood pressure and heart rate while measuring the wearer's level of glucose, lactate, alcohol, and caffeine. The device is the first wearable monitor for cardiovascular signals and multiple biochemical levels in the human body at the same time. The researchers say the wearable would help people with underlying medical conditions that require monitoring their health regularly.

Researchers also say it would be an excellent tool for remote patient monitoring, particularly during the pandemic going on now. The device would be a benefit to users who need to manage high blood pressure and diabetes. Another potential use would be to detect the onset of sepsis, which is characterized by a sudden drop in blood pressure and a rapid rise in lactate levels.

The wearable sensor design takes completely different sensors and merges them on a single small platform about the size of a stamp. The sensor allows researchers to collect information with one wearable sensor via a non-invasive method that causes no discomfort or interruption to daily activity.

The patch is made of a thin sheet of flexible polymers able to conform to the skin. The patches are equipped with a blood pressure sensor and two chemical sensors to measure lactate levels (a biomarker of physical exertion), caffeine, and alcohol in sweat. Another is to measure glucose levels in interstitial fluid. Measuring three parameters at once is possible with one parameter from each sensor, including blood pressure, glucose, and either lactate, alcohol, or caffeine. Researchers say that they could detect all the same time, but they would need a different sensor design.