While the number of diagnostic technologies available for adult applications continues to grow, there remains a paucity of technologies suitable for fetal evaluation. In particular, noninvasive assessment of fetal cardiac electrophysiology has not been routinely possible despite many decades of fetal ECG research. Recently, a number of groups have demonstrated the efficacy of fetal magnetocardiography (fMCG), the magnetic analog of fetal ECG, as a new method of assessing fetal heart rate, rhythm, and conduction. The last few years have seen rapid progress in demonstrating the diagnostic efficacy of fMCG, as well as in magnetometer technology. The goal of this project is to reduce the price of a complete fetal MCG system from approximately $1M at present to below $100k. The system we propose to develop is based on new low-cost, room-temperature atomic magnetometers that are just as sensitive as existing superconducting magnetometers. During Phase I we established the feasibility of our approach through independent evaluation in a clinical environment. During Phase II we will develop a full-scale, turn-key system that is ready for commercialization.
Fetal arrhythmia occurs in 1-3% of all pregnancies. Approximately 10% of these are sustained arrhythmias, which are often life-threatening and difficult to diagnose. Recently, a number of groups have demonstrated the efficacy of fetal magnetocardiography (fMCG) as a new method of diagnosing fetal arrhythmia. The goal of this project is to develop an fMCG system based on atomic magnetometers that will be far more practical and cost-effective than current systems based on SQUID technology.