The WombOX designed by engineering students (Courtesy of Rice University)
A team of engineering students at Rice University has developed a prototype pulse oximeter called WombOX. The device can be placed in the mother’s womb and gently attached to the arm or leg of the fetus to provide real-time data during fetal surgery.
Delivery and retrieval via trocar are quick, safe and minimally-invasive. The device has a nitinol wire loop that is compressed when inside the delivery sheath. Once pushed out and exposed to body heat, the nitinol expands. The resulting loop is then placed around the arm or leg of the fetus and tightened to monitor fetal blood oxygen.
LEDs and a light detector in the device sense blood oxygenation just like existing oximeters. After the surgery, the surgeon can use forceps to loosen the WombOX so that it can be withdrawn. According to the students, there is currently no device for monitoring fetal blood oxygenation in the womb.