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Thermal imaging of the fetus: An empirical feasibility study: PloS one

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Article numbere0226755
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>28/07/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>PLoS ONE
Issue number7
Volume15
Number of pages22
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Digital Infrared Thermal Imaging (DITI) has much potential in the field of maternal-fetal health and wellbeing research. The fact that it is totally non-invasive is particularly important in this context. The purpose of this study was, for the first time, to assess DITI's ability to record fetal presentation and position, and other pregnancy-related physiological factors, via their superficial thermal prints. Ten healthy pregnant women (approximately 34-37 weeks of gestation) were recorded with two thermal imaging cameras (Flir C3 and i3 TE-Q1) from five different viewpoints. Participants' views about the use of DITI in research and clinical practice were also assessed by a completion of a survey. Free hand polygon region of interests (ROIs) were drawn in order to include the entire anatomical area for investigation. The use of free hand polygon ROIs showed high reliability. Thermal images analysis revealed that fetuses presenting cephalically can be identified by the use of DITI, under specific conditions. Fetal movements influenced the thermal patterns that were produced. Future studies need to verify the heat patterns on the skin related to the placenta location, in order to understand the produced thermal recordings. Pregnant women rated the idea of using DITI in research and clinical practice very highly. This work represents a first contribution towards the use of DITI for the recording of fetal presentation and position. As it does not require direct contact and since it is completely non-invasive, it could be used to record maternal-fetal dynamic dyadic interaction in pregnancy. However, although the preliminary results are promising, further trans-disciplinary studies with a well-established protocol, more sophisticated thermal cameras, and bigger cohorts are needed.