Students Develop Fetal Blood Oxygen Monitor

June 05, 2016

Bioengineering students at Rice University have a developed a prototype for a new fetal pulse and oxygen monitor designed for use within a mother’s womb during endoscopic fetal surgery. Dubbed “The WombOx”, this fetal pulse oximeter has the potential to provide additional safeguards to ensure overall fetal health and safety.

The WombOx is made up of a nitinol wire loop inside a retractable delivery sheath. Once exposed to body heat, the device expands into a predetermined shape where doctors can then guide the loop around a limb and gently tighten it into place. The WombOx uses LEDs and a photodetector on miniature circuit boards that sense the infant’s blood oxygen levels.

"Our design, like other endoscopic tools, is intended for single use," Claudia Iriondo, one of the students, explained. 'The device is durable enough to withstand unsheathing, expansion in the womb, attachment to the fetus and resheathing during removal."

"We took the same components found in the finger clip and basically mounted them onto flexible circuit boards we printed here," Thomas Loughlin, another member of the team, added. "There are two LEDs, a red and an infrared, mounted on one side, and on the other side there's a photodetector that will detect how much light is passing through, which is related to the absorbance properties of the blood. That's related to how oxygenated the blood is.

"We turn the signal from the photodetector into a voltage that can be read, processed and turned into a number for oxygen saturation of the blood," he said.

A sine wave-like section was also added to the design to give surgeons a visual reference. The sine disappearing indicates that the loop is too tight. To remove the WombOx, doctors simply have to retract the loop back inside the sheath.

Being able to calculate information such as oxygen saturation would allow doctors to treat fetuses suffering from congenital defects including spina bifida. The information provided by the WombOx could also help physicians act quickly in more critical situations. At AIV Inc., we are dedicated to providing clinicians with premium quality fetal monitoring equipment and supplies. Browse through our available fetal monitoring transducers, accessories, replacement parts, and repair services today! Visit for more information.

About the Author

Laura Collier

Laura Collier

Laura Collier has a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of North Florida. She is the Marketing Manager at AIV, Inc.

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