The monitor is simple to use, beltless, requires no wires to connect to the display or printer. There is also no need for the constant re-positioning of transducers, which is required with older technology and the mother is free to walk around if necessary.
As part of their study, which has been published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface Focus, the team from the University of Leeds used the device to administer a weekly fetal ECG recording from 18 weeks until just before delivery.
The data from this, alongside two different MRI scans from the hearts of dead fetuses, was incorporated into a 3D computerised model built up using information about the structure, shape and size of the different components of the heart.
Early results suggest that the human heart may develop on a different timeline from other mammals. While the tissue in the walls of a pig heart develops a highly organised structure at a relatively early stage of a fetus' development, their work suggests there is little organisation in the human heart's cells until 20 weeks into pregnancy. Despite this, the human heart has a regular heartbeat from about 22 days.
Developing an accurate, computerised simulation of the fetal heart is critical to understanding normal heart developments in the womb and, eventually, to opening new ways of detecting and dealing with some functional abnormalities early in pregnancy.
Dr Eleftheria Pervolaraki, lead researcher on the project at the University of Leeds' School of Biomedical Sciences, said: "For a heart to be beating effectively, we thought you needed a smoothly changing orientation
|Contact: Emma Thorne|
University of Nottingham