Newberry company hopes to improve on fetal monitors

Published: Monday, September 16, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 16, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.

When it comes to giving birth, the technology dates back decades, OBMedical President Weaver Gaines said.

“If you give birth in the United States today, 95 percent of the technology available is 40 years old,” he said.

That’s why his Newberry-based company, founded in 2012, is spearheading a new device that aims to improve the accuracy of readings and the patient’s comfort level.

LaborView, a wireless, electronic maternal-fetal monitor, has three primary purposes -- to monitor contractions, the mother’s heart rate and the baby’s heart rate.

Gaines said LaborView improves on current sensors, which can lose their signal, might pick up only 66 percent of heart rate readings, can confuse the mother’s and baby’s heart rates, and exclude obese women.

“(Today’s) sensors are strapped onto the patient in an extremely uncomfortable way with Velcro belts — and if you’re obese, they don’t work at all or they work very badly,” he said.

LaborView’s sensor array spreads across the mother’s stomach in a circle instead of being strapped like a belt around her.

Susan Nickel, 65, is a certified nurse midwife who just retired in Gainesville, where she started her career at UF Health Shands Hospital about 40 years ago. Nickel estimated she has assisted in the delivery of 3,000-plus babies and said there is a need for technological advances such as the LaborView.

“I have commented to my colleagues -- both physicians and labor and delivery nurses -- that since fetal monitoring came into my career, there’s been no improvement,” she said -- until now.

LaborView has been approved for a $300,000 investment loan from the Institute for the Commercialization of Public Research, a nonprofit organization formed in 2007 by the Florida Legislature that provides funding for projects in state universities and private research institutions. LaborView was developed by the University of Florida and Convergent Engineering.

OBMedical applied for the loan after obtaining the required $300,000 match in private investment.

LaborView’s first clinical test in 2012 on reading contractions at Shands was successful, Gaines said. The second trial — reading the heart rates of the mother and baby — will begin in October.

Gaines said he hopes to begin the process of Food and Drug Administration clearance in early 2014 and have LaborView on the market by that fall.

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