Researchers at the University of California, San Diego created an ultrasound patch that can measure blood flow in vessels up to 14 cm inside the body. The elastic patch can be applied to the skin and can help doctors monitor and diagnose various conditions, including blockages that could cause a heart attack. The patch contains a series of ultrasound transducers that can measure blood flow in vessels directly below it, and the ultrasound beam can also be directed to assess vessels that are close to, but not directly below.
Monitoring blood flow in specific vessels can help doctors diagnose various cardiovascular diseases. For example, measuring changes in blood flow in the carotid artery could show someone is at risk for a stroke and help start treatment before a stroke occurs. However, current technology to accurately measure blood flow can be inconvenient, invasive, and requires a qualified technician to use an ultrasound probe to investigate the target vessel.
This patch is intended as a more convenient alternative. “Just stick it on the skin, then read the signs. It is not operator dependent and does not represent additional work or burden for technicians, physicians or patients, ”said Sai Zhou, a researcher involved in the study, via a UCSD news release. “In the future, patients could use something like this to do a point of care or continuous monitoring at home.”
The flexible device contains a 12 x 12 grid of small ultrasound transducers embedded in an elastic polymer. The transducers can be controlled to fire together, allowing researchers to investigate vessels that are up to 14 cm deep under the skin. In another mode, the transducers will activate at different times, causing the ultrasound beam to be directed, allowing the user to investigate vessels that are not directly under the patch.
“With phased array technology, we can manipulate the ultrasound beam in any way we want,” said Muyang Lin, another researcher involved in the study. “This gives our device multiple capabilities: monitor central organs as well as blood flow, with high resolution. This would not be possible with a single transducer. “
So far, researchers have tested the patch and shown that it is as accurate as a commercial ultrasound device. Currently, the device is connected to cables that provide power, but the research team hopes to develop a wireless version in the future.
To study in Biomedical Engineering of Nature: Continuous monitoring of deep tissue hemodynamics with extensible ultrasonic phased arrays