Prenatal Diagnostics & Neuroassesment

There is a strong demand to develop new diagnostics tools for accurate assessment of the neurophysiological development of the fetus as more pre- and full-term babies survive with various disorders. In fact, the rate of premature birth has increased by more than 30 percent in two decades, and now accounts for more than 500,000 babies a year who are born at least three weeks early. Increased sophistication of neonatal intense care units has lead to the improved survival rates of these younger and sicker preterm babies, however, the cost to society to care for these babies is already reaching $26 billion each year, according to the National Institute of Medicine.

Important parameter for the diagnostic use is the basal fetal heart rate (FHR) disclosing the presence or absence of accelerations and decelerations and baseline variability associated with the development of Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). Present technology is not adequate to consistently evaluate changes in FHRV through gestation

In the last few years, advantages and medical relevance of the fetal magnetocardiography (fetal-MCG) have been shown. Fetal-MCG is the measurement of magnetic fields (a few pT in amplitude) emitted by the fetal heart from small currents by electrically active cells of the heart muscle. The measurements are taken by SQUID sensors in one or several spatial locations above the pregnant abdomen and provide information which is complementary to that provided by direct, contact electro-physiological measurements.

Typically, the quality of fetal-magnetocardiographic recording is significantly higher than that of the corresponding electric or Doppler recordings. Fetal biomagnetic signals are unaffected by poor electrical conductivity of the vernix caseosa, a waxy substance which forms on the fetal skin at about 25 weeks’ gestation and impedes the transmission of fetal bioelectric signals.

The overall goal of this project is to develop a novel clinical diagnostic method based on superconducting SQUID device technology to identify a fetus at risk for neurological injury or death, so that timely and appropriate intervention can be carried out before the underlying condition causes irreversible damage.

National TV news broadcasts on fetal SQUID diagnostics developed by our group

  • “New device helps detect problems in preemies sooner”, ABC 27 WKOW (Madison, WI), April 19, 2010
  • “Fetal Heart Sensor” WSOC-TV (Charlotte, NC), April 27, 2010
  • “Oh Baby! Checking Fetal Health Earlier”, FOX 4 TV (Florida) June 2, 2010
  • “Detecting Heart Problems Before Birth” WTAJ News (Central PA), May 27, 2010
  • “There’s a new way to monitor the heart of an unborn baby”, WFRV News (Green Bay, WI), May 2, 2010


  • Audrius Brazdeikis and Nikhil S. Padhye, “Biomagnetic Measurements for Assessment of Fetal Neuromaturation and Well-Being” in “New Developments in Biomedical Engineering”, Domenico Campolo (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-7619-57-2, INTECH 2010, pp. 425-446.
  • Nikhil S. Padhye, Member, Amber L. Williams, Asif Z. Khattak, Robert E. Lasky, M. Terese Verklan, and Audrius Brazdeikis, “Heart Rate Variability as a Measure of Neonatal Pain Response and Fetal Autonomic Development”, Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Computer Applications in Electrical Engineering Recent Advances (CERA 2010).
  • Nikhil S. Padhye, M. Terese Verklan, Audrius Brazdeikis, Amber L. Williams, Asif Z. Khattak, and Robert E. Lasky, “A Comparison of Fetal and Neonatal Heart Rate Variability at Similar Post-Menstrual Ages”, IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Proceedings, EMBS, 30, pp. 2801-2804 (2008).
  • A. Brazdeikis, G. J. Vázquez-Flores, I.C. Tan, N.S. Padhye, and M.T. Verklan, “Acquisition of Fetal Magnetocardiograms in an Unshielded Hospital Setting”, IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity, 17 (2), 823-826, (2007).
  • M.T. Verklan, N.S. Padhye, and A. Brazdeikis, “Analysis of Fetal Heart Rate Variability Obtained by Magnetocardiography” The Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing, 20, 343-347, (2006).
  • N.S. Padhye, A. Brazdeikis and M.T. Verklan, “Complexity Changes in Fetal Heart Rate Variability”, IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Proceedings, EMBS, 28, pp. 461-463, (2006).
  • A. Brazdeikis, C.W. Chu, P. Cherukuri, S. Litovsky, M. Naghavi, “Changes in magnetocardiogram patterns of infarcted-reperfused myocardium after injection of superparamagnetic contrast media,” Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology, 16, 1-4, (2004).
  • A. Brazdeikis, A.K. Guzeldere, N.S. Padhye, and M.T. Verklan, “Evaluation of the performance of a QRS detector for extracting the heart interbeat RR time series from fetal magnetocardiography recordings”, IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Proceedings, EMBS, 26, pp. 369-372, (2004).
  • N.S. Padhye, A. Brazdeikis, and M.T. Verklan, “Monitoring fetal development with magnetocardiography”, IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society Proceedings, EMBS, 26, pp. 3609-3610, (2004).

Our Collaborators

Research was conducted both at TCSUH and at several location of the Memorial Hermann Hospital. Our external faculty collaborators: Terese M. Verklan, Ph.D (University of Texas Health Science Center), Nikhil S. Padhye, Ph.D (University of Texas Health Science Center).

Project Status
This project is currently active

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