Obstructed labor, in which the fetus’s position or size prevents it from passing through the birth canal, is a primary cause of this problem. Doctors can treat this scenario with a variety of approaches, but they must first detect the problem, preferably as soon as feasible. The goal of this study was to develop a low-cost option for doctors in low-resource areas.
As the foundation for this technology, the researchers started with a standard surgical glove. On the glove’s fingertips, they printed flexible pressure and force sensors. These sensors are made of metal-oxide nanocomposites that can generate an electric current when they come into contact with objects. The researchers cleverly ensured that the sensors were thin enough not to interfere with a doctor’s sense of touch. To keep things sterile in the vaginal canal, a second surgical glove can be worn over the team’s glove. The team also created a smartphone app that allows clinicians to access real-time sensor data. Each detecting glove is made for less than a dollar.
To put the technology to the test, the researchers made silicone elastomer models of a baby’s skull, which mimicked the intricate surface features of the real thing. An expert obstetrician performed fake vaginal examinations with the sensing glove and silicone heads to see if the technology could identify fetal position features and measure the force applied to the head.
With a jump in electrical current as the glove’s finger passed over them, the sensing glove correctly identified the joints between the ‘bones’ of the model heads. This would allow a clinician to detect the location of these joints and, as a result, compute the fetal orientation. The glove also detected the force applied to the heads and transmitted real-time data to the smartphone app.
The researchers intend to perform human testing to see if the glove can deliver the same information in real-world situations. If the technique is successful, it could provide a simple and low-cost early warning system for obstructed delivery in low-resource areas of the world. It may also be useful as a training tool for clinicians in such areas.
“This is the first glove of its kind that might be used to identify the fetal position and so may be able to enhance labor outcomes,” said lead author Dr. Shireen Jaufuraully of University College London. “We expect that if the clinical translation is successful, the glove will be utilized globally, boosting the safety of aided vaginal birth.”
- Preventing stillbirth from obstructed labor: A sensorized, low-cost device to train in safer operative birth – (https:www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fgwh.2022.1039477/full)
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