Developing a training simulator for amniocentesis

Tommy’s is helping to create a model that lets medical staff practice this diagnostic test to make it safer for mother and baby.
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    Dr Annette Briley, Mr Paul Seed, Dr Graham Tydeman, Professor Andrew Shennan

Why do we need this research?

Amniocentesis is a test that can be carried out in early pregnancy to check if a baby has any genetic problems. Using ultrasound to guide, a needle is inserted into the woman’s abdomen to take a sample of the amniotic fluid which surrounds the baby in the womb. This fluid contains cells from the baby that can then be tested in a laboratory for genetic conditions.

Amniocentesis involves a small risk of miscarriage – around 1%. For this reason, it is essential that the person doing the test is trained in both using ultrasound and guiding the needle so that it doesn’t harm the baby or the placenta. This is even more important in obese women, where it can be difficult to place the needle.

Because of the risks, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that anyone who carries out amniocentesis should be trained on a simulator first. However, at the moment, there aren’t any devices that let healthcare professionals practice in a way that really helps to prepare them.

What’s happening in this project?

Tommy’s has teamed up with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity to create a simulator that will let doctors practice amniocentesis in women of different weights. Our researchers have designed a final model which is now being produced by the company Adam,Rouilly, which specialises in medical training equipment. The model uses materials that are strong enough for using many times, but similar enough to the human body to give realistic ultrasound scans. The researchers plan to test the equipment thoroughly to make sure that it provides a good training experience for medical staff.

What difference will this project make?

The training simulator will help healthcare professionals learn how to safely carry out amniocentesis on women with different weights. This training will help to minimise the risks of the procedure for mother and baby as much as possible.

Thanks for your interest in our research

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. We can keep you updated on ways you can support our work. If you would like to join our fight against baby loss and premature birth, click here.