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A Blood Pressure Monitor to Wear on Your Wrist
Date:4/16/2009

MIT researchers design lightweight sensor that can take readings at will

THURSDAY, April 16 (HealthDay News -- Imagine being able to check your blood pressure with a quick glance at your wrist.

Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have produced a prototype of such a device, which they hope will overcome the limitations of current blood pressure-monitoring systems.

"A wearable blood pressure monitor can get data regularly," said H. Harry Asada, an MIT mechanical engineer who has led the development of the device. "If you are taking medication to lower your blood pressure, it can tell you if you are taking too much or too little."

Most people now have their blood pressure checked only when they visit a doctor. However, there are worries that office readings might not be accurate because of "white coat hypertension," higher-than-normal blood pressure caused by the nervousness of being in a doctor's office.

Blood pressure measurements at home usually require putting on an inflatable cuff, a procedure that many people find annoying. By contrast, the prototype device developed at MIT is a device about the size of a cell phone, worn on the wrist and hooked up to a sensor that is a simple finger ring.

"It's a combination of wristwatch and ring, a little larger than a standard wristwatch," said Asada, director of MIT's d'Arbeloff Laboratory for Information Systems and Technology.

It might seem simple, but its development required solving a tricky engineering problem in three dimensions because blood pressure goes up or down as a hand is raised or lowered.

"As people raise or lower their arms, different hydrostatic pressures apply to the sensor," Asada said. "We have to correlate the sensor reading to changes in hydrostatic pressure."

That correlation must be done in three dimensions because an arm can move in any direction. "If we know the orientation
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