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Implantable blood pressure monitors: Science fiction or reality?

blue waveformAt SunTech Medical, we’re always thinking about blood pressure (BP) and how current measurement tools and techniques might be improved. In many ways, “routine” blood pressure measurement hasn’t changed much over the last 100 years. But innovative tools like ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) have helped us learn about the importance of masked hypertension, overnight dipping, and blood pressure variability, their impact on clinical outcomes, and the subsequent guidance of hypertension treatment.

In an editorial published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension, Dr. Fredrich Luft elaborates on research showing the important role BP variability plays in the progression of end-organ damage and triggering of cardiovascular events. He also raises an interesting question about how BP variability should be measured. Should the focus be in-office to 24-hour average variability? Day-average to night-average? Beat-to-beat? Dr. Luft rightly observes that in order to achieve beat-to-beat BP monitoring, we must divert from the 100-year-old routine method of BP measurement.

Dr. Luft points out that implantable micro-sensors have been used for years to measure beat-to-beat BP in animal research models, and presents some current human research examples. He goes on to suggest that implantable sensors will help us learn more about BP variability and its role in cardiovascular risk. I would argue that while potential benefits in research are valid, it is highly unlikely that such an invasive approach will ever play a significant role in routine BP monitoring and hypertension treatment. For the foreseeable future, the associated costs and increased patient risk are just too high.

However, if the risks and costs can be greatly reduced, implantable BP monitors may become more reality than science fiction. But for now, I think we can expect to see such technology used exclusively in clinical research investigations. Of course, what that research reveals will go a long way in determining the future role of implantable BP monitors.

What do you think?  Are you for or opposed to invasive BP monitoring via implant?  Send us your comments!

 

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