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Five Technological Advances in Obstetrics and Gynecology

Five Technological Advances in Obstetrics and Gynecology
AI is currently making waves across all fields of medicine, including obstetrics and gynecology. (Credit: Neuroscience News)

Pioneering, high-tech developments can be seen across the fields of gynecology, obstetrics and general healthcare for women. From robotic-assisted surgery to wireless fetal monitoring and even the use of artificial intelligence (AI), the hope is that cutting-edge technologies will improve treatments and outcomes for both women and babies. Here are five of these technological advances in this sector.

1. Wireless Electronic FetalMonitoring

The invention of the wearable, wireless fetal monitor has not only freed pregnant mothers from the confines of their hospital beds but also brought other significant benefits.

Barrie Hayes-Gill, Professor of Electronic Systems and Medical Devices at Nottingham University in the UK, was a member of the team that developed the Monica Novii Wireless Patch System, now part of the GE Healthcare product portfolio. He said:

“Traditionally, mothers in labor have two belts that are strapped around their abdomens and connected to a monitor beside their bed. But some mothers like to walk around—and of course there are reports about gravity having a positive effect during labor and delivery.

The patch we developed offers that and also enables the opportunity for monitoring that avoids the problem of maternal and fetal heart rate confusion, which can happen with ultrasound.”

The Monica Novii Wireless Patch System. (Credit: GEHealthcare)
The Monica Novii Wireless Patch System. (Credit: GE Healthcare)

The Novii, which is now widely used in hospitals across the US, accurately and continuously monitors the baby’s heartbeat. 

Sensors that communicate via Bluetooth are attached to the mother’s abdomen with adhesive PET patches. The device’s clever use of electronics and high sensitivity make its data extremely accurate, thereby enabling essential, life-saving early interventions. 

Furthermore, unlike ultrasound, it is unaffected by the mother’s body mass index (BMI). Prof. Hayes-Gill added: 

“The patch has the potential to reduce morbidity and mortality – and the whole team behind  it is very proud.”

2. Robotics

Robotic systems are increasingly being used to conduct major gynecological procedures for diseases including endometriosis as well as cervical and ovarian cancer.

Through minimal access surgery (MAS), robots can assist in remote and laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery for procedures including hysterectomies and ovarian cystectomies, resulting in smaller incisions, less trauma and faster recovery.

CMR Surgical’s Versius system is being used to treat complex cancer cases at Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Trust in the UK. Dr. Nidhi Singh, the hospital’s Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynecology said: 

“Versius represents a massive step forward in making MAS accessible to many more patients. A hysterectomy is a major and complex surgical procedure—when performed openly it traditionally requires around a five day stay at the hospital and many weeks to fully recover.

We aim to change this for the hundreds of women who undergo these types of surgeries at our hospital every year.”

CMR Surgical’s Versius system. (Credit: CMR Surgical)
CMR Surgical’s Versius system. (Credit: CMR Surgical)
CMR Surgical’s Versius system. (Credit: CMR Surgical)
CMR Surgical’s Versius system. (Credit: CMR Surgical)

3. Advanced Imaging

Advanced medical imaging is developing steadily, offering sharper pictures of the pelvic cavity and organs for obstetricians and gynecologists to assess. 3D ultrasound systems can offer healthcare professionals complete views of the cervix, uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Transvaginal ultrasounds are conducted using a device that is inserted into the vagina, rather than moved across the abdomen, to detect abnormalities.

This is used together with magnetic resonance, an imaging technique that can help diagnose endometriosis, as well as ovarian and uterine cancer.

4. Artificial Intelligence

AI is currently making waves across all fields of medicine, including obstetrics and gynecology. It can be used to help detect fetal heart rate and uterine contractions and signal possible preterm labor complications.

Research has also shown that AI can be applied to ultrasonography MRI in obstetrics, as well as to identify cancer in mammograms. 

Dr. Nicky Keay, Honorary Clinical Lecturer, University College London, who has clinical and research experience in the field of endocrinology, believes there is a growing role for AI in women’s health.

Research has shown that AI can be applied to ultrasonography MRI in obstetrics, as well as to identify cancer. (Credit: ts2.space)
Research has shown that AI can be applied to ultrasonography MRI in obstetrics, as well as to identify cancer. (Credit: ts2.space)

She helped set up a menstrual tracker which is currently being used in a study to monitor basal body temperature, which is a good indicator of ovulation and can be used to detect subclinical ovulatory disturbances. She said:

“AI techniques give the possibility of combining multiple sources of data.For example, in our study, we can combine the menstrual cycle, temperature, hormone tests, etc.

However, all AI systems have to be guided by clinical input. AI is not a substitute for clinical medical expertise, rather a very effective support. 

Every woman is an individual and good medical practice is grounded on working with people in a clinical context, not just dealing with their data.”

5. Remote Wearable Devices

Remote wearable devices and trackers are emerging across all areas of women’s healthcare.

Dr. Keay, who has recently published a book entitled “Hormones, Health and Human Potential,” believes we will see an increased use of these high-tech gadgets in the field of obstetrics and gynecology over the coming years.

"We will see an extension of what wearables can detect. For example, that could mean monitoring hormone changes in real time, as women are 'on the move'."(Credit: Wavebreak Media LTD)
“We will see an extension of what wearables can detect. For example, that could mean monitoring hormone changes in real time.”(Credit: Wavebreak Media LTD)

They may be used in conjunction with telemedicine to enable remote appointments and become more common in capturing information on the vital signs of women with high-risk pregnancies.

They could increasingly be used to form part of an Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), providing smarter healthcare for women. She said:

“I think we will see an extension of what wearables can detect. In my field, for example, that could mean monitoring hormone changes in real time, as women are ‘on the move’.”

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