NASA Technology Applied to Create New Fetal Heart Monitor
"It's a technology that we are bringing to the patient as opposed to the patient having to come to the technology," says Kevin Gomez, MD, who has conducted NASA-sponsored clinical trials at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and continues the trials at Atlanta Perinatal Associates.
"If this [new technology] is more practical or equally practical and less expensive [compared with ultrasound], it'll find its way into the marketplace," says Richard Paul, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, in Los Angeles. And, according to Gomez, the new monitor is considerably less expensive than ultrasound.
Not only will the new technology benefit people in rural settings where they cannot access physicians, says Gomez, but it should be able to benefit patients from urban centers, where they may be unable to keep their appointments.
"As far as the safety, we haven't seen any problems," says Gomez. "Nor would be we expect to [see any]." Paul explains, in an interview seeking objective commentary, that the new device may also be able to remove some of the artifact interference, or background noise, because of its snug fit against the abdominal wall.
Gomez explains that, in the clinical trials, over 50 women who had high-risk pregnancies and who would normally have required fetal heart monitoring were simultaneously monitored with ultrasound as well as with the new heart monitor. The findings have been that the recordings from the new heart monitors look just like those produced by the ultrasonic equipment, he says. "Anything that you could put on the abdominal wall that would work reliably would probably be an improvement over the current ultrasound, which is probably 90-95% reliable," says Paul. "If you could get something that is 100%, that is all the better."
"Hopefully, within the next 6 months we should be ready to approach the FDA to try to see about getting approval for its use," says Gomez. "That is really the next step. We are fine-tuning things, and we'll hopefully have something that is going to be on the market within the year."