Vascular diseases are one of the most common causes of death around the globe. Encompassing a range of conditions (such as atherosclerosis, pulmonary embolism, and deep vein thrombosis), vascular diseases affect blood vessels, impacting their ability to move blood around the body effectively. Cardiovascular diseases (diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels), in particular, caused almost 18 million deaths globally in 2019.
Research suggests that being able to effectively monitor blood flow throughout the body can be key to administering the right treatments in a timely manner, improving patient outcomes and reducing mortality rates. However, because the vascular system is composed of blood vessels, veins, and arteries of varying sizes, existing tools are limited in what they can offer patients.
Researchers at the University of Georgia have developed an implantable device that can monitor and transmit blood flow data (including pulse and blood pressure) without the need for batteries. The device is described in a recent paper published in Science Advances.
The device operates like a stent, a tool designed to help keep blood vessels open in patients with conditions like atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease (CAD). This allows blood to flow unobstructed. While in an artery, the device is constantly collecting and transmitting blood flow data.
While stents can be important treatment options for people with vascular disease, however, it can be difficult to monitor how or if the stent is helping a patient. Angiograms are usually used to assess this, but they have their own range of complications and are on the expensive side. The device, which uses inductive coupling to transmit real-time data wirelessly (similar to how a wireless charger can charge a smart device), may help remove the need for imaging or angiogram procedures entirely.
The design of the device also allows it to be worn as a wearable health monitor.
With a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the research team plans to continue testing their technology. While the device has currently only been tested in animals, they hope their work in designing the wireless device could offer new ways of designing implantable medical devices.