Air Force

Fetal heartbeat phantom

Simulates fetal cardiac activity to facilitate training for healthcare professionals on accurate pregnancy determination via ultrasound

Medical & Biotechnology Sensors

Early pregnancy determination can lead to better health outcomes for mothers and babies. (PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay)

From the Air Force Research Lab – Sensor Directorate comes a training phantom to simulate various pregnancy conditions, fetal cardiac activity, and anatomically correct organ structure. The patent-pending technology is available via license agreement to companies that would make, use, or sell it commercially.

Health care professionals commonly determine pregnancy by detecting the presence of a fetus via ultrasound. Training health care professionals on ultrasound procedures can be facilitated with a radiological phantom – a manufactured, anatomical replica of a patient or organ. Unfortunately, conventional phantoms for gynecological procedures only work with equipment specifically designed for use with the phantom and not approved for in-vivo examinations, limiting the training’s efficacy. Conventional phantoms are often complicated and expensive, making them impractical and cost-prohibitive.

Recently, Air Force scientist Zackary J. Kent created a phantom for simulating a fetal heartbeat. The housing is shaped like a female human pelvis and contains a fetal heartbeat simulator, a representation of an 8-week old fetus, and other components to simulate the uterus, bladder, and intestine. The materials used are of different densities to mimic human anatomy closely.

The heartbeat simulator is comprised of a pressure bulb attached to a tube, with the pressure bulb extending out of the phantom and the distal tip of the tube attached to the fetus inside the phantom’s housing. The tube is filled with a liquid such as water or saline, with an air bubble at the distal end of the tube adjacent to the fetus. Squeezing the pressure bulb transfers the force from the liquid in the tube to the air bubble, which expands in response. This compression and decompression simulate the cardiac activity of a fetus and create a faint sound that mimics the fetal heartbeat which can be detected via ultrasound. Manipulations of the pressure bulb may be varied to simulate various heart conditions of a fetus, such as an arrhythmia.

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