Game-Changer | Valencell for Smart Watches | Blood Pressure

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Image|Valencell

Valencell Claims to have the capability for Blood Pressure readings from the wrist

Valencell makes sensor units for wearables, mostly for watches but for the ear too. They provided the sensors for the original Scosche Rhythm and for top-end multisport watches like the Suunto 9. However, these were all sensors for heart rate and heart rate variability. Which is cool, but certainly not unique.

However, Valencell now claims to be able to use similar principles to determine blood pressure on the wrist.

This is massive. A game-changer.

Background

Vast numbers of people in the western world need regular blood pressure readings and from your visits to the doctor you know it’s ‘a bit of a faff‘ as the doctor has to inflate a cuff on your upper arm. I have a similar unit at home (it’s even ANT+ enabled, obviously) but they are inconvenient to use, power and store. Then if you factor in the difficulty of use to more elderly people, you can guess that many people just simply aren’t willing or able to do these kinds of tests themselves.

Plus, when do you do the test? it takes a little while. Wouldn’t it be nice to have automated, periodic measurements linked into a health alerting mechanism?

To cut a long story short, I hope you can see that a watch based solution that measures reflected light shone into the skin is a VASTLY more preferable, convenient and probably cheaper solution.

Many other companies are trying to do this. The Omron Heartguide watch from 2018, coming in at £500, has a solution but it involves inflating a small balloon that is built into their wristwatch. Some Samsung devices I believe also support links to external BP sensors. There are also patents from Apple which involve a balloon built into a wristwatch but unless that ‘balloon’ was super-tiny it would never find its way into an Apple Watch.

Valencell has had a working version of the technology for over a year and this has previously only been implemented for in-ear technologies. Now it’s available for smartwatches.

A modified optical sensor also incorporating heart rate and SpO2 measurement could find its way onto MANY millions of smart watches.

Image|Valencell

Population Issues

To put the problem into perspective, Valencell cite these figures

So, calling this a game-changer is not overstatement. If it works. But does it?

Valencell has results of the BP validation study available on request here.

 

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JJS

I agree that this will bring some interesting new insights. But: Does anyone have experiences with blood pressure during sports activities? I’m afraid that this will cause many discussions about what is right and what is dangerous.

Rui Pereira

Did a treadmill effort test 2 years ago, so I could get a medical certificate for a high altitude ultra trail race. Basic test where you start to walk, then at regular intervals (3 minutes or so), they increase the pace and the incline. You run with several electrodes attached to your chest, hands always grabbing the front rail, the test ends if at any time your pulse reaches (220-age) or 20 minutes have passed.

Anyway, at the end of each interval they also manually measured your BP with a sphygmomanometer (while you’re still running). From what I remember the diastolic pressure was more or less constant, only the systolic increased during the 20 minutes test. In the beginning I think it was 120/80, in the end 160/80 or so.

Chris

Wrist based BP monitoring is not new, the key is accuracy and clinical validation.
Casio had several models almost 30 years ago, they are Pulse Transit Time based (ECG+PPG).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucGblYOgdjo

https://watchcharts.com/listing/1282860/vintage-nos-casio-bp-300-blood-pressure-monitor-watch-twin-sensor
The current implementation of Asus and Samsung has not been a great success, we have to wait for the Apple Watch 8 to revolutionize blood pressure measurement as well. 🙂

Bene

Asus and Samsung are random number generators. Its like the rescue thumb rule: If you can feel the pulse on the wrist, BP is most likely to be over 120, if you feel it at the brachialis, its still 100 and so forth. BP on the wrist is already a gamble, even with medical certified devices. In Emergency services, we get a lot of wrong calls because of those devices. First thing we do, we measure the good old way with cuff and spygnomanometer, its still gold standard. That was also the fear with ECG in the Apple Watch (wich doesn’t happen that often in my own experience). So, my opinion: I can’t see a use in sports, but I see a use in 24/7 devices. But only if it is working like SpO2 on the Apple Watch: If the circumstances don’t fit, don’t measure. People have to sit still with wrist based measuring and other vibrations like in a driving car also have to be a reason to abort the reading, or if the watch is not tight enough. BP Monitoring is essential for a lot of people, but only if the numbers are to be trusted. If its… Read more »