New technology reduces stillbirths and brain damage

New technology reduces stillbirths and brain damage

Mater Mothers' is the first maternity hospital in Australia to introduce a new technology to safely monitor babies during labour and help reduce the risk of brain injury to the baby and stillbirths.

The technology called INFANT (Intelligent Fetal Assessment), analyses fetal heart monitoring and draws clinical attention to any problems through the use of visual and audible alerts.

The system looks at the baby’s heart rate and how the rate changes especially in response to contractions. It forms an opinion and raises concern where appropriate at the bedside and to senior staff within the birth suite.

Despite Cardiotocography (CTG) implemented since 1973 to read a baby’s heartbeat, the rate of stillbirths and brain injury for babies around the world has remained high.

Mater Mothers Hospitals’ Birthsuite Nurse Unit Manager Catherine Cooper said that around the world, most women who labour will have their baby’s heart rate recorded using a CTG.

“This technology has seen little advancement in more than 40 years but this new technology allows doctors and midwives to see how a baby is coping during labour by looking at aspects of its heart rate pattern, especially in response to contractions,” Ms Cooper said.

Mater Mothers’ Hospitals Medical Director Dr Mike Beckmann said the decision to implement INFANT six months ago as part of standard practice was made following assessment of the technology in the largest maternity technology evaluation undertaken in the UK, involving 47 000 births across 24 hospitals.

“The study found there was a halving of the expected number of tragic outcomes such as brain injury to the baby or stillbirth when INFANT was used to assist interpretation of fetal heart rate patterns,” Dr Beckmann said.

“All eyes are on Mater Mothers’ with the introduction of the cutting edge technology, making Mater one of the safest places in the world to have a baby,” Dr Beckmann said.

Dr Beckmann said this technology doesn’t diminish the importance of human decision-making.

“The system has been designed as a tool to support and inform clinical decision making, providing an additional safety-net to our Mater clinicians,” he said.

“We have already seen the practical application over and over–reinforcing our proactive measures to protect our mothers and babies,” he said.

K2 Medical Systems Director and inventor of the technologies Dr Robert Keith has been working for 30 years developing and evaluating a system with the aim of reducing unnecessary harm to babies during birth.

“This is an immensely proud moment for us all and we are delighted to be releasing our technology into clinical practice,” Dr Keith said.

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