The Second Heart Device Reduces Blood Pressure Drop on Standing

Senior man uses blood pressure cuff while point-of-care worker and senior woman look on

Award Date: 2017

Project Lead(s): James Milligan, Family Physician

Project Title: The Second Heart: Active compression for the maintenance of blood pressure and brain blood flow in the elderly

What is the issue?

When we stand, blood moves away from the brain and toward the feet, causing blood pressure to drop a little bit. When older adults stand, blood pressure can drop more. As a result, they may experience confusion, dizziness, loss of balance, and falls.

What did we do?

We designed a system that helps blood flow back to the heart and brain. It uses cuffs similar to blood pressure cuffs to squeeze the lower legs on and off in pulses. We tested the system with 24 older adults with cognitive impairment, conducted a focus group with 13 users, and asked two caregivers and two clinicians for their feedback.

What did we find?

Users said the cuff material was very comfortable and that the highest level of compressions felt like a nice massage. While they were sitting, the compression system increased blood flow to the brains and raised blood pressure. When they stood up, it prevented blood pressure from dropping too low.