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article imageNew tech calculates blood pressure via a selfie video

By Tim Sandle     Aug 7, 2019 in Health
Scientists have developed a straightforward way to assess blood pressure where the user takes a selfie video. The technique works well with some people, but it is less effective with certain skin tones.
Imagine the simplicity of taking a photo and having software rapidly assess your blood pressure. This would certainly be faster than a visit to a medical professional and having an inflatable cuff fitted around your arm, waiting patiently for the systolic and diastolic readings to be produced.
The alternative technology comes from a collaboration between Chinese and Canadian researchers, and the output is a technology termed transdermal optical imaging. Through this method, specially designed technology processes imperceptible facial blood flow changes taken from videos captured using a smartphone camera (where red light is reflected from hemoglobin located from under the skin). The device then uses advanced machine learning to determine blood pressure from the captured signal.
Blood pressure measurement.
Blood pressure measurement. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
To test out the software, the researchers took 1,328 subjects and through two-minute long video images taken, which were compared with conventional blood pressure readings, a machine learning algorithm was able to develop computational models that were shown to be able to predict systolic, diastolic, and pulse pressure. The test results were assessed as accurate, within plus or minus five readings (mmHg). While this was considered good, the technology requires further research in order to boost the accuracy. Additional research is needed for people who have very dark or fair skin (and who were under-represented in the initial study).
Once developed, the device will assist those who are at risk of hypertension- or hypotension-related issues to track their blood pressure.
The following video expands on the how the device works:
Quoted by Engadget, lead researcher Kang Lee, from the University of Toronto, said: "If you set up a computer or your phone, you can get a doctor who is, let's say, in Toronto and then you can talk to each other and diagnose simultaneously."
The research has been reported to the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, with the research paper titled "Smartphone-Based Blood Pressure Measurement Using Transdermal Optical Imaging Technology."
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