A South African-made ultrasound machine called Umbiflow is reducing perinatal deaths in the country.
This device uses a continuous wave Doppler to measure blood flow in the fetal umbilical cord, especially during the third trimester. This helps doctors assess placental function, especially with regard to the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus.
Without this kind of measurement, pregnancies, where the fetus is not gaining the nutrients or oxygen it needs, can end in death before the baby is born.
“Presently the only way to determine the fetal growth rate at the primary care level in South Africa is by measuring the symphysis-fundal height manually by use of a technique involving a tape measure to determine the distance across the mother’s abdomen from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus,” said the company in a product overview.
This is why the development of this tool was funded by the Department of Science and Innovation, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Umbiflow is designed to work in low-resource areas and can be operated by nursing staff and midwives as well as doctors.
“Our simple-to-use continuous-wave Doppler, on the other hand, allows midwives and nursing sisters to effectively manage a routine antenatal course for pregnant women at the primary health care level and thereby has the potential to greatly reduce the number of unnecessary referrals.
“At the same time, the device can detect placental insufficiency in what appears otherwise to be low-risk pregnancies. This ensures referral for further testing and intervention, where necessary, to save the at-risk fetus.”