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Smartphone device reads blood pressure anywhere

Device could serve busy techies or people living far from the nearest doctor
Image: Smartphone based device for real-time monitoring of blood pressure
Smartphone based device for real-time monitoring of blood pressure.Anand Chandrasekhar

A 3-D printed smartphone device reads blood pressure anywhere and anytime and might provide a way for even the busiest people to keep an eye on their numbers, researchers reported Wednesday.

Paired with a smartphone app, the device worked at least as well as a finger cuff to read blood pressure, the team at Michigan State University reported, although it’s doubtful it would stand up when compared to a proper measurement using an arm cuff in a doctor’s office.

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People easily learned to use the device, which measures blood pressure and calculates it when a fingertip is pressed against a sensor, the team reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

“The phone also provides visual feedback to guide the amount of finger pressure applied over time and computes blood pressure from the measurements,” they wrote.

Michigan State’s Anand Chandrasekhar and colleagues used a 3-D printer to make the device, which fits on the back of a smart phone, and created an app to go with it. It uses the phone’s computing power to make the calculations needed to convert the input into a blood pressure reading, and display it on the phone’s screen for the user.

They tried it out on 30 volunteers. Almost all of them were able to learn to use it after just two tries, they said.

“The smartphone-based device showed blood pressure measurement accuracy similar to the finger cuff device with respect to the standard arm cuff device,” they wrote.

“Screening for hypertension may be the main clinical application of the device, especially in the 20- to 50-year-old segment of the population who are often technology savvy and health conscious but may be at risk for early development of hypertension.”

In addition, many people in less developed countries have little access to a doctor’s office but they often carry smartphones.

Blood pressure is a growing worldwide problem. More than a third of Americans have high blood pressure, a major cause of heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and chronic kidney disease.

New guidelines suggest that people take many measurements over time to get a true reading of their blood pressure. White coat hypertension is a spike in blood pressure that many people get in doctor’s offices, and research shows that blood pressure can go up and down considerably over the day.

This device might help, Chandrasekhar and colleagues said.

“Averaging many measurements also abolishes the substantial bloodpressure variations that occur within a person due to stress, physical activity, recent ingestion of a meal, and other factors,” they wrote.