An ingenious innovation of a smart glove that costs less than $1 has been created with the aim to aid clinicians during birth.
The study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Global Women’s Health, engineered the device to help healthcare staff in finding the fetal position and the force applied to the fetal head during labor–factors that affect obstructed labor and poor birth outcomes.
A boon for low-resource regions, the low-cost glove can provide real-time data during vaginal examinations.
Normally, clinicians have a wide range of medical technologies at their disposal to determine the cause of any problem that may arise during labor. Unfortunately, in low- and middle-income countries, these technologies and skilled staff, who can use them, are in short supply. The researchers attribute 98% of stillbirths that occur in such countries to this problem, acoording to EurekaAlert.
One of the major factors of dangerous birth is when the position or size of the fetus blocks the passage of the baby through the birth canal, called obstructed labor.
The researchers designed the device using a simple surgical glove on which they printed flexible pressure and force sensors at the fingertips. The sensors contain metal-oxide nanocomposites that produce an electric current when touched or rubbed against objects. Made with a lot of thought, the sensors were made thin enough to not obscure a doctor’s sense of touch. Additionally, a second normal surgical glove can be worn over the smart glove. This will ensure sterile conditions in the vaginal cavity.
Also, a smartphone app has also been developed which allows doctors to view the data in real-time.
For the study, researchers created silicone elastomer models of a baby’s head, which mimic the delicate surface structures of an actual fetal head. Next, an experienced obstetrician was asked to perform mock vaginal examinations on the silicone heads using the smart glove to test whether the device was competent enough to indicate the fetal position and measure the force applied to the head.
Following analysis, it was found that the smart glove successfully detected the joints between the “bones” of the model heads. There was a surge in electrical current every time the glove’s finger passed over it, the study showed. The researchers noted that this finding will allow a clinician to determine where these joints are, and in turn, the orientation of the fetus. Moreover, the glove was able to measure the force applied to the heads, and that data was provided in real-time on the smartphone app.
With great initial success, scientists now want to conduct trials in humans to check their efficacy in real-world situations. The technology can also be used as a training tool in low-cost regions.
“This is the first glove of its kind that could be used to identify the fetal position and therefore may be able to improve labor outcomes,” Dr. Shireen Jaufuraully of University College London, lead author on the study, said, as per the outlet. “We hope that with successful clinical translation, the glove may be used worldwide, increasing the safety of assisted vaginal birth.”