Locally made ultrasound device helping to reduce perinatal deaths

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Dubbed the Umbiflow, the diagnostic tool measures blood flow in the fetal umbilical cord.

CAPE TOWN – A locally produced ultrasound device is reducing perinatal deaths by up to 40%.

Dubbed the Umbiflow, the diagnostic tool measures blood flow in the fetal umbilical cord.

Its development was funded by the Department of Science and Innovation, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Medical researchers said that there were nearly 20,000 perinatal deaths in South Africa annually.

To address this, the development of the Umbiflow was already undertaken in the late 1980s.

Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr Tsakane Hlongwane explained that the Umbiflow calculated resistance index, a measure of placental function.

“It measures blood flow in the fetal umbilical cord and that is a measure of placental function, so it tells us how healthy this placenta is to be able to carry the pregnancy to term.”

This low-cost ultrasound device consists of a handheld probe that connects to a desktop or tablet and it gives a graphic representation of the placental function.

Hlongwane, who’s also a researcher at the University of Pretoria’s Maternal and Infant Health Care Strategies Unit said that the device was easy to use.

“Any healthcare professional can use the device, it’s not restricted to specialists or sonographers. It’s easy to use, it’s less technical, nursing staff and midwives at a primary healthcare facility can use it.”

It’s particularly useful in remote locations in the country, where medically trained personnel can interpret the data and consult specialists to formulate a treatment plan if needed.

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