eBP: A Wearable System For Frequent and Comfortable Blood Pressure Monitoring From User's Ear (MobiCom'19)

Frequent blood pressure (BP) assessment is key to the diagnosis and treatment of many severe diseases, such as heart failure, kidney failure, hypertension, and hemodialysis. Current "gold-standard'' BP measurement techniques require the complete blockage of blood flow, which causes discomfort and disruption to normal activity when the assessment is done repetitively and frequently. Unfortunately, patients with hypertension or hemodialysis often have to get their BP measured every 15 minutes for a duration of 4-5 hours or more. The discomfort of wearing a cumbersome and limited mobility device affects their normal activities.

This work proposes a device called eBP to measure BP from inside the user's ear aiming to minimize the measurement's impact on users' normal activities while maximizing its comfort level. eBP has 3 key components: (1) a light-based pulse sensor attached on an inflatable pipe that goes inside the ear, (2) a digital air pump with a fine controller, and (3) a BP estimation algorithm. In contrast to existing devices, eBP introduces a novel technique that eliminates the need to block the blood flow inside the ear, which alleviates the user's discomfort. We prototyped eBP custom hardware and software and evaluated the system through a comparative study on 35 subjects. The study shows that eBP obtains the average error of 1.8 mmHg and -3.1 mmHg and a standard deviation error of 7.2 mmHg and 7.9 mmHg for systolic (high-pressure value) and diastolic (low-pressure value), respectively. These errors are around the acceptable margins regulated by the FDA's AAMI protocol, which allows mean errors of up to 5 mmHg and a standard deviation of up to 8 mmHg.

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