Upbeat device for babies’ hearts

July 18, 2011

Sparks fly when hands-on medical researchers get together with techno-innovators. Take the case of the Wind-up Doppler Ultrasound Foetal Heart Rate Monitor, a simple but effective device despite its formidable name!

Professor David Woods and his colleagues have established the Power-Free Education and Technology (PET) group that advocates the development of appropriate, low-cost, robust and power-free medical devices.

These devices, together with specially prepared booklets, help nurses and doctors meet the challenges of health care in under-resourced areas.

PET is a humanitarian, not-for-profit organisation whose goals are to identify and prioritise the need for appropriate medical devices, conceptualise and oversee the design specifications, and co-ordinate the research and testing of devices.

The board members are senior academic clinicians with practical experience of providing healthcare in low resource settings and are passionate about improving the lives of mothers and infants in poor communities.

PET’s aim is to save lives through the use of innovative technologies. While their principle focus is on the emergency health needs of mothers, babies and children in rural clinics, some of their devices are also invaluable in the fields of anaesthesia, trauma and emergency medicine in mainstream hospitals.

David Woods is a paediatrician with a particular concern for the healthcare of pregnant mothers and young babies in rural areas. He and his clinical colleagues are leading the way in the development of tough, wind-up medical diagnostic equipment that can be used in remote locations.

They have established a not-for-profit company, MPower, in the UK to manage the production, marketing and servicing of their new products.

Of the 9.7 million childhood deaths that occur annually, many are preventable, and 99 percent occur in the “developing” world. Of these deaths, about two million occur due to complications during birth and are preventable with safe birth practices.

Measurement of the foetal heart rate is critical to determining which of the 150 million births annually require further attention, immediate care and/or referral to a better facility.

Current methods for measuring foetal heart rates are either too expensive, too inaccurate or rely on replaceable batteries or mains electricity. There is therefore an urgent need for an innovative, power-independent, affordable and accurate foetal heart rate monitor.

The design principles that PET applies to their innovative medical devices include: they must be safe and effective, capable of functioning independent of mains electricity and replaceable batteries, and capable of being powered by a range of options, including a hand crank, solar panel, car battery or generic mains adaptors.

Read more on ~uIOL.co.za#www.iol.co.za/scitech/technology/news/upbeat-device-for-babies-hearts-1.1100228~

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