Future of blood pressure checks?

New wrist watch type device could give more accurate readings for people with hypertension, say UK researchers.

A new hi tech ‘wrist watch’ style device could be the future of blood pressure monitoring, according to researchers at the University of Leicester.

Instead of checking blood pressure using a cuff around the arm, the new device measures the pressure close to the heart and brain – called the central aortic systolic pressure.

Using the old-style blood pressure devices, blood pressure is amplified as it travels away from the heart.

It measures what’s called your pulse wave, and this provides enough information to work out your aortic blood pressure from a measurement of your brachial blood pressure. A sensor pad presses on the radial artery on the inside of your wrist. Wearing it for 24 hours provides an average which evens out readings across a day, including faster pulse rates during exercise.

The research behind the new device was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.The authors write their findings: “have important implications for the simplification of noninvasive CASP measurement and its wider application in clinical trials and clinical practice.”

The researchers say getting an accurate measurement of pressure closure to the heart is important because that’s where high blood pressure can cause damage.

New device

For around 100 years doctors have inflated a cuff around the upper arm to take readings. The only change in recent years is an electric pump does the hard work of blowing-up the cuff, and digital displays give the readings instead of watching a pointer needle.

The new device with a special wrist sensor is the result of collaboration between the University of Leicester and a Singapore medical device company called HealthSTATS International.

So, will this be in your GP’s surgery next time you go for a check up? In a statement, Professor Bryan Williams from the University of Leicester’s Department of Cardiovascular Sciences at Glenfield Hospital says: “it is not going to replace what we do overnight but it is a big advance. Further work will define whether such measurements are preferred for everybody or whether there is a more defined role in selective cases to better decide who needs treatment and who doesn’t and whether the treatment is working optimally.”

However, he’s convinced it will catch on quickly: “I am under no illusion about the magnitude of the change this technique will bring about. It has been a fabulous scientific adventure to get to this point and it will change the way blood pressure has been monitored for more than a century. The beauty of all of this, is that it is difficult to argue against the proposition that the pressure near to your heart and brain is likely to be more relevant to your risk of stroke and heart disease than the pressure in your arm.”

In a news release, the government’s interim Interim Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies says: “This is fantastic work by Professor Williams and his team and I am delighted to welcome these findings.”

In a statement, Judy O’Sullivan, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, says: “Previous research by these scientists has shown that measuring pressure close to the heart is a better indicator of the effectiveness of treatment for high blood pressure than the standard method. However, further research is needed before we can be certain of its superiority in the doctor’s surgery.

“So while this new device is a step in the right direction, the conventional and well established way of measuring blood pressure will be what most patients experience for some time to come.”