U.K. midwives take ultrasound into the community

June 18, 2010
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A pilot study involving eight community midwives from Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust suggests that portable ultrasound has the potential to reduce hospital admissions for predelivery scans. This would eliminate the need for patients in remote areas to travel to appointments.

A pilot study involving eight community midwives from Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust suggests that portable ultrasound has the potential to reduce hospital admissions for presentation scans. This would eliminate the need for patients in remote areas to travel to appointments and encourage more home births.

Myles Taylor, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist, and Tom Smith-Walker, an obstetric specialist registrar, both at Royal Devon and Exeter, carried out a pilot study to investigate the feasibility of using a portable ultrasound device in community midwifery practice. The device was used by eight midwives in Exeter for one month, scanning expectant mothers in the third trimester. Initial feedback from a user questionnaire highlighted the system’s ease of use and, with further exploration, confidence in its capability to reduce hospital referrals.

The midwives used an Acuson P10 handheld ultrasound system from Siemens Healthcare during the trial. It is small enough to fit into a coat pocket, weighs just 700 g, and is capable of image depth from 4 to 24 cm. Its mobility enables a clinician to go directly to the patient and conduct examinations outside the hospital environment.

“In our feto-maternal assessment unit, an average of 30 patients per month are referred for presentation scans,” said Tom Smith-Walker, co-author of the study. “Feedback from the midwives using the P10 suggests that it certainly has the potential to reduce such visits through use in rural locations with scattered communities.”

This initial trial suggests the versatility and confidence that portable ultrasound can deliver outside of the traditional hospital environment, said Declan Dunphy, ultrasound product manager at Siemens Healthcare.

“With pressure on hospitals to increase efficiency, it is encouraging to hear positive feedback on the P10 ultrasound system’s potential to eliminate the need for patients to travel to hospital for repeat scans,” he said. “We are delighted that it has assisted community midwives in delivering diagnostic confidence.”





 



Initial findings were presented at the British Maternal and Fetal Medicine Society (BMFMS) Annual Congress June 10 – 11, 2010, in Gateshead. The authors recommended a larger and more detailed study be carried out to provide further confirmation on the effect the P10’s use would have on reducing hospital referrals and the incidence of undiagnosed breeches at term.