Scientists funded by Britain's Department of Health developed a new wrist watch-style device that could revolutionize the way blood pressure is measured.
The traditional arm-cuff blood pressure check, used by doctors for more than 100 years, could be replaced by the new device, researchers said Monday.
The new gadget is placed over the radial artery on the wrist so a sensor can measure the pulse wave. This reading is then fed into a computer that electronically calculates the blood pressure in the aorta, close to the heart.
The aorta, the largest artery in the body, gives a more accurate reading than pressure in the arm because of its proximity to the heart and brain, which are at higher risk of damage during a heart attack or stroke.
"The aorta is millimeters away from the heart and close to the brain, and we have always known that pressure here is a bit lower than in the arm," said lead researcher Bryan Williams, a professor at the University of Leicester. "Some patients have high pressure in the arm, but their aortic pressure is completely normal. We believe that these patients don't need to be treated."
He added, "Unless we measure the pressure in the aorta, we are not getting an appreciation of the risks or benefits of treatment."
The breakthrough tool, developed in collaboration with Singapore-based medical technology company HealthSTATS International, could be made available to doctors within five years.
A paper based on their research was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.