New imaging technology is created by researchers to analyse uterine contractions during labour

New imaging technology is created by researchers to analyse uterine contractions during labour

An innovative imaging technology known as electromyometrial imaging (EMMI) has been created by researchers to provide real-time, three-dimensional pictures and maps of contractions during labour that may aid in labour management.

According to a research, the non-invasive imaging technology produces novel picture types and metrics that may assist quantify contraction patterns and provide the fundamental information needed to optimise labour management, especially for premature delivery.

The research, which was conducted under the direction of Washington University and University of Texas, was published in the journal Nature Communications.

"EMMI has the ability to answer crucial questions concerning uterine contractions and will help us better understand what happens during pregnancy and labour," stated Diana W. Bianchi, Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), a US organisation.

With further study, the tool could be able to identify women who are likely to give birth early or whose labour pattern would finally need a caesarean delivery.

According to Bianchi, this will also benefit healthcare professionals in determining the efficacy of a certain therapy or intervention.

Using a sheep model as their starting point, the study team created EMMI and published their results in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

In the latest research, the scientists modified EMMI for human clinical usage and put it to the test on 10 pregnant women who were in good health.

Tocodynamometry and an intrauterine pressure catheter, which are the current clinical procedures for measuring contractions, can only offer a few information, such as contraction length and severity, while also being intrusive.

The study found that EMMI combined two non-invasive scans: a multi-channel surface scanning electromyogram, which uses sensors placed along the belly to measure contractions during labour, and a fast anatomical MRI, which can be used to obtain a picture of the uterus during early term pregnancy, or 37 weeks gestation.

Following the combination and processing of these data, three-dimensional uterine maps are created, with warm colours designating uterine regions that are activated earlier in a contraction, cool colours designating uterine regions that are activated later, and grey areas designating inactive regions, according to the study.

The research found that a series of maps is produced over time to create a visual timelapse that displays where contractions begin, how they spread and/or synchronise, and possible patterns that are connected to a regular pregnancy vs one with difficulties.

Moreover, measures to define uterine contractions were developed using EMMI maps. The entire surface area of the uterus that becomes electrically active during a single contraction, for instance, is measured by the maximum activation ratio. The rate of uterine electrical activation is measured by the slope of the activation curve. The area that causes contractions to dilate the cervix is quantified by the fundal early activation ratio.

The pilot study's findings also shed light on the long-standing mystery of how contractions start; according to EMMI data, the uterus does not have a set, pacemaker-like location that starts labour.

The 10 research participants showed a variety of contraction patterns and metrics, with some commonalities between first-time mothers and those who had already given birth.

The researchers noted that further study is required to support and build upon these findings.

An EMMI contraction atlas created from healthy pregnancies, according to the scientists, may be used as a tool to recognise preterm labour, diagnose it, and perhaps decide which patients would benefit from an induction over those who could need a caesarean surgery.