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Compact long-term recorder for the transabdominal foetal and maternal electrocardiogram

Abstract

Foetal heart rate (FHR) monitoring is a proven means of assessing foetal health during the antenatal period. Currently, the only widely available instrumentation for producing these data is based on Doppler ultrasound, a technology that is unsuitable for long-term use. For nearly a century, it has been known that the foetal electrocardiogram (FECG) can be detected using electrodes placed on the maternal abdomen. Although these signals suggest an alternative means of FHR derivation, their use has been limited owing to problems of poor signal-to-noise ratio. However, the eminent suitability of the transabdominal FECG for long-term FHR monitoring has suggested that perseverance with the technique would be worthwhile. The paper describes the design, construction and use of a compact, long-term recorder of three channels of 24 h antenatal transabdominal data. Preliminary use of the recorder in around 400 short recording sessions demonstrates that FHR records of equivalent quality to those from Doppler ultrasound-based instruments can be extracted from such data. The success of FHR derivation is, on average, around 65% of the recording period from around 20 weeks gestation (although this figure is reduced from around 28–32 weeks, and the success rates exhibit a wide range when individual subjects are considered). These results demonstrate that the technique offers, not only a means of acquiring long-term FHR data that are problematic to obtain by other means, but also a more patient-friendly alternative to the Doppler ultrasound technique.

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Correspondence to J. A. Crowe.

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Piéri, J.F., Crowe, J.A., Hayes-Gill, B.R. et al. Compact long-term recorder for the transabdominal foetal and maternal electrocardiogram. Med. Biol. Eng. Comput. 39, 118–125 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02345275

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02345275

Keywords

  • Foetal monitoring
  • Antenatal
  • Foetal electrocardiogram
  • Foetal heart rate
  • Maternal heart rate
  • Electrophysiological recorder