Michael Braukus

Headquarters, Washington, DC

(Phone: 202/358-1979)

Keith Henry

Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA

(Phone: 757/864-6120)

RELEASE: 00-31

The results are in. A NASA technology originally used to
measure airflow over airplane wings has been successfully used to
develop a portable, non-invasive, easy-to-use fetal heart monitor.

The new clinically proven fetal heart monitor takes advantage
of aerospace technology to make it more affordable, portable and
easy to use by expectant mothers in their own homes. What’s more,
it “listens, documents and stores” fetal heart-rate data without
injecting energy into the womb, making it totally non-invasive.

A team of aerospace researchers from NASA’s Langley Research
Center, Hampton, VA, worked with Veatronics, Inc., of Charlotte,
NC, to convert the technology to this innovative medical
application. NASA granted the company a license to market one or
more commercial products based on the technology.

“Because the material we used for wing surface measurements
is flexible, it is ideally suited to fit over the curved surface
of a maternal abdomen for fetal testing,” said Allan Zukerwar of
Langley’s Advanced Measurement and Diagnostics Branch.

Current fetal heart-monitoring devices generally work well
but cost many thousands of dollars and can only be used in a
clinic or doctor’s office.

NASA developed the portable technology at the suggestion of a
medical doctor in a remote area that suffers from a lack of
appropriate health care. For several reasons, when expectant
mothers do not receive necessary prenatal care, the result is
often increased fetal mortality.

In its present form, an at-home patient would strap a wide,
soft belt embedded with sensors over her belly, tune a
computerized control device to hear the fetal heartbeat and send
the signal directly to her doctor’s office via the Internet. The
device is as easy to use as tuning a radio, which one doctor
considers essential to its ultimate success.

“I think the portability of this technology will make it very
useful,” said Dr. Kevin Gomez, a specialist in maternal fetal
medicine at Atlanta Perinatal Associates, Atlanta, GA. “Instead
of having patients travel to where the technology is, have the
technology travel to the patients.”

Dr. Gomez led a recently completed series of NASA-sponsored
clinical trials at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Clinical trials also were sponsored at Eastern Virginia Medical
School, Norfolk, VA, and at Encino/Tarzana Medical Center, Encino,
CA. Among other things, the trials are expected to establish that
the NASA acoustic monitor meets federal Food and Drug
Administration guidelines. Results are being compared to those
recorded via Doppler ultrasound and scalp-electrode monitors, and
also to standard accepted measurements.

The Morehouse trials, along with continuing investigations at
Atlanta Perinatal, proved to Dr. Gomez’s satisfaction that the
technology offers an easy-to-use alternative to visits to the
doctor’s office. This is especially important, he explained, for
high-risk patients who should be examined twice a week or more, or
for patients who cannot easily travel. All of Dr. Gomez’s
patients are considered high-risk, due to maternal complications
of pregnancy or fetal abnormalities.

Even perfectly healthy patients may not be able to afford the
time or money for periodic trips to the doctor — or may find
themselves ordered to long periods of bed rest.

The new method of checking fetal heart behavior might actually
prove to be a better way of monitoring some pregnancies than
technologies now in use. In addition, the system could provide
objective data to complement information gained from other

– end –

Editor’s Note: B-roll and soundbite video is available that
includes the technology’s original aviation application and its
use with fetal heart-monitor patients. Contact Ivelisse Gilman of
Langley Public Affairs at (757) 864-5036 or