Wearable patch detects hypoglycemia via heart rate

A wearable medical patch used to measure variations in heart rate could be used to detect low blood sugar in type 1 diabetes patients, according to preliminary results presented at ENDO 2018 in Chicago.

When undetected, low blood sugar can lead to seizures or even death. While continuous glucose monitors could help identify low blood sugar, the delay associated with sensors could pose a risk. In response, researchers developed a medical patch to detect low blood sugar through the wearer’s heart rate.

In this study, researchers evaluated the feasibility of the HealthPatch biosensor in measuring heart rate and blood glucose levels. The patch sends heart rate data to a mobile device, which then uses an algorithm to determine its variability.

The study enrolled 27 participants with type 1 diabetes and self-reported frequent episodes of low blood sugar to have their heart rate continuously monitored with the patch worn on their chest, paired with a glucose meter, for five days. Participants also recorded and low blood sugar in a diary.

Results showed 72 percent of low blood sugar events were detected by the patch’s algorithm, showing clear changes in heart rate leading to low blood sugar episodes.

"Timely detection of impending hypoglycemia is critical to avoid severe, potentially life-threatening hypoglycemia," said the study's principal investigator, Marleen Olde Bekkink, MD, PhD, an endocrinology fellow at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, Netherlands. "Our proof-of-principle study found that measuring heart rate variability using a wearable device in an outpatient setting seems promising for alerting to upcoming hypoglycemia."