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Chest E-Tattoo for Continuous, Mobile Heart Monitoring Could Catch Cardiovascular Diseases Early

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 31 May 2023
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Image: Chest e-tattoo boasts major improvements in heart monitoring (Photo courtesy of UT)
Image: Chest e-tattoo boasts major improvements in heart monitoring (Photo courtesy of UT)

Most heart-related ailments are insidious in nature, damaging health quietly and unnoticed. Continuous, at-home mobile monitoring can lead to early diagnosis and treatment, potentially preventing up to 80% of heart diseases. However, currently, there aren't readily available solutions for long-term, comfortable monitoring outside a clinical environment. Tests performed during clinical visits might miss certain heart issues if the symptoms aren't present at the time. To address this issue, a new flexible, wearable medical device could significantly aid in combating heart disease.

A team led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin (Austin, TX, USA) has developed an ultrathin, lightweight electronic tattoo, or e-tattoo, for continuous, mobile heart monitoring. This device, which adheres to the chest, includes two sensors that collectively provide comprehensive insights into heart health, increasing clinicians' chances of detecting early indicators of heart disease. The innovative e-tattoo, marking an advancement from a previous chest e-tattoo project, is wireless and mobile. This is made possible by an array of tiny active circuits and sensors interconnected by stretchable interconnections with the e-tattoo attached to the chest using a medical dressing. These transparent devices are significantly less intrusive than other monitoring systems and offer enhanced comfort for patients.

Weighing just 2.5 grams, the e-tattoo operates on a penny-sized battery, which lasts for over 40 hours and can be effortlessly replaced by the user. It provides two crucial heart measurements. The electrocardiogram (ECG) indicates the heart's electrical signal, while the seismocardiogram (SCG) represents the heart's acoustic signal originating from the heart valves. While ECG can be measured by mobile devices like an Apple Watch, and SCG can be tracked via a stethoscope, no mobile solution currently exists that can either mimic a stethoscope or provide both measurements. The synchronized monitoring of these two parameters allows for the measurement of cardiac time intervals, which are significant indicators of heart disease and other issues. Initial testing of this device on five healthy patients in their daily environments yielded low measurement error rates compared to existing monitoring options. The next phase includes further testing to validate these initial findings and expand the scope to different patient categories.

“Those two measurements, electrical and mechanical, together can provide a much more comprehensive and complete picture of what’s happening with the heart,” said Nanshu Lu, a professor in the Department of Aerospace and Engineering Mechanics and a lead author of the study. “There are many more heart characteristics that could be extracted out of the two synchronously measured signals in a noninvasive manner.”

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