Wearable Smart Patches Are The New Innovation We All Need
Engineers at the University of California, San Diego, have created a soft, flexible skin patch that can be worn around the neck to monitor the wearer’s glucose, lactate, alcohol, and caffeine levels while also continually monitoring blood pressure and heart rate. It is the first wearable technology to simultaneously monitor numerous biochemical levels in the human body and cardiovascular signals.
What is a smart patch?
A type of wearable sensor utilized in the medical field is called a smart patch. They contain a foam component and integrated electronics to track the patient’s physiological signals, such as their pulse, and are adhered to the patient’s skin.
The trajectory of current advances is toward ever-increasing patch capability, together with enhanced comfort and continuous shrinking. This also entails using such wearable technology in a more durable, sustainable manner.
Many of the smart patches that are now used to monitor vital parameters are not particularly small and might be rather painful to wear. Additionally, the entire device, including the electronics, is merely tossed away when the patch ceases to cling to the skin.
Therefore, the goal was to develop a wearable patch that would be less wasteful, more versatile for patients, and more comfortable. It should also be highly advanced medical equipment with features that make monitoring and diagnosing patients easier.
Uses for skin patches
Thanks to their reliability and convenience, electronic skin patches are excellent remote monitoring options in inpatient and outpatient cases. Currently, electronic skin patches are most commonly used in cardiac monitoring and diabetes management. But the versatile technology can be utilized for a wide variety of other uses, including
- Motion and position sensing
- Monitoring vital signs
- Temperature sensing
- Drug and cosmetic delivery
- Newborn monitoring
- Smart wound care
- General sensing
One soft skin patch that can do it all would also offer a convenient alternative for patients in intensive care units, including infants in the NICU, who need continuous blood pressure monitoring and other vital signs. These procedures currently involve inserting catheters deep inside patients’ arteries and tethering patients to multiple hospital monitors.
How it works
The patch is a thin polymer sheet that can stretch to fit the skin. It has a blood pressure sensor and two chemical sensors that monitor glucose levels in interstitial fluid, caffeine and alcohol levels in perspiration, and lactate levels. Blood pressure, glucose, and lactate, alcohol, or caffeine can all be measured simultaneously by the patch, one from each sensor.
Near the patch’s center is where the blood pressure sensor is located. Conductive ink is used for soldering a group of tiny ultrasonic transducers to the patch. The transducers emit ultrasonic waves into the body when a voltage is applied to them. The sensor picks up the echoes left behind when the ultrasound waves hit an artery, and it converts the data into a reading of the blood pressure.
Two electrodes made of conductive ink are screen printed on the patch to serve as the chemical sensors. The electrode, printed on the right side of the patch, detects lactate, caffeine, and alcohol by releasing the medication pilocarpine into the skin to cause sweating and detecting the chemical compounds in the sweat. The other electrode, which detects glucose, is printed on the left side. It operates by releasing interstitial fluid from the skin with a small electrical current before detecting the amount of glucose in the fluid.
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