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The Actifetus system: a multidoppler sensor system for monitoring fetal movements.

Published Article
Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology
Publication Date
PMID: 17276580


Fetal heart rate (FHR) monitoring is a crucial part of monitoring at-risk pregnancies and labor. Its aim is to detect any abnormalities that might indicate acute fetal distress and a need for rapid treatment to avoid death or serious sequelae, including cerebral handicap. The use of fetal biophysical profiles in high-risk pregnancies (gravidic hypertension, in utero infection, etc.) helps to distinguish healthy fetuses from those with chronic conditions. Fetal biophysical profile scores have been developed that integrate five biophysical parameters, one of which is derived from the FHR. The major parameters detected are the rate of fetal movements, fetal tone, fetal breathing movement and amniotic fluid volume. All of those parameters except FHR are obtained by prolonged echographic observation and cannot be used routinely. We developed in this study a new multigate multitransducer pulsed Doppler system for survey of fetal behavior. Fast Fourier transform and autocorrelation function have been used for processing and analyzing ultrasonic Doppler signals generated by fetal movements. Several parameters are analyzed in each of the 12 x 5 = 60 Doppler gates: amplitude of signals reflected by moving fetal structures, velocity, direction and amplitude of displacement of fetal structure (heart, chest, limbs). From these parameters it is possible to calculate FHR and characterize fetal activity. Preliminary in vivo results obtained in 15 pregnant women (30 to 36 wk) are very encouraging but they have yet to be confirmed in future studies. These results also demonstrate the advantages of transducers designed for improved fetal movement detection. The algorithms needs to be precise enough to allow the Actifetus system to function in real time. We now have at our disposal some algorithms that succeed in quantifying FHR and fetal movements with a signal from a given sensor at a given depth. This study confirms the feasibility of monitoring fetal movements by the Actifetus system and demonstrates the importance of the characterization of fetal rhythms (and fetal behavior). The Actifetus system will serve as a new mean for studying fetal response to environment and detecting anomalies related to fetal suffering.

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