Another big advantage of the SQUID detector, says Wakai, is that it makes hour-long, continuous recordings, while ultrasounds, by far the most common technology used today in measuring fetal heart rhythms, capture only a small window of activity.
"While ultrasound measures the pumping action of the heart, this new magnetic recording device measures the rhythm signals that cause the heart to pump," he says.
The Wisconsin team has used the detector to analyze heartbeat irregularities in more than 300 patients so far, but they see it as just the tip of the iceberg.
"So many miscarriages and stillbirths are unexplained, and we think cardiac conditions often may be the explanation," says Strasburger. "We can use this technology to identify fetuses with many of those conditions."
There is hope for those fetuses, Strasburger adds.
"Many of the diseases fetuses are dying of in utero are preventable and treatable," she says.
Right now the testing is confined to patients who come to Madison. But Wakai and Strasburger plan to provide scientific and technical support for a project that will take the show on the road--with a mobile unit currently under construction.
"This is a big project involving many players, including a company based in rural Wisconsin, Shared Medical Technologies," Wakai says. "We will need a smaller SQUID sensor, a special shield that blocks magnetic interference from the environment and a truck large enough to carry it all."
He expects the first mobile unit to be ready for testing in about one year.
Strasburger, who practices primarily in the small town of Neenah, is committed to making connections with Badger State communities.
"One of my goals in practicing as an
|Contact: Toranj Marphetia|
Medical College of Wisconsin