With one in ten babies needing resuscitation or stabilisation at delivery, a team led by Professors Barrie Hayes-Gill and Don Sharkey, developed a breakthrough technology called SurePulse. This opto-electronic device measures a baby’s heart rate via its forehead during resuscitation – removing the need for a stethoscope – allowing doctors to be hands-free, speeding up their interventions and reducing risks caused by errors in using the stethoscope.

The team recognised the potential of using Photoplethysmography (PPG) which measures the change in blood volume under the skin as the heart beats. In reflectance mode, PPG measurements are taken by shining light directly at the skin and detecting the amount reflected back, whereby the magnitude of light returned details the beat.

The baby’s heart rate is measured by a wireless sensor which detects changes in reflected light on the richly perfused forehead. The forehead is easily accessible and enables optimum signal quality. The sensor sits in a specially designed, disposable cap which transmits signals to a wireless display. The device provides continuous, hands-free accurate monitoring; enabling medical staff to make fast, confident decisions and focus on performing procedures in time-critical situations.

SurePulse ensures that the ‘golden minutes’ after birth – the time when the baby is coming off the umbilical cord – are accurately monitored, thus reducing the chances of brain damage or death. All components can integrate seamlessly into the care pathway. In 2018 SurePulse was awarded a CE mark and has been trialled in NHS hospitals on over 300 newborns. In 2021, SurePulse obtained FDA clearance for sales in the USA. 

The team have secured approximately £9 million to date in funding - private investment, Innovate UK, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the Medical Research Council - for SurePulse to become a clinical reality. Financial support was also given by the Action Medical Research charity in its earlier years.

The University of Nottingham formed a joint venture business - SurePulse - with Derby-based electronics specialist, Tioga, to further develop the device. SurePulse enhances clinical procedures, is simple to use and reduces the chance of errors in vital sign measurement of newborns. The device offers a significant addition to the delivery room as technology for newborn resuscitation is still fairly ‘low-tech’ in comparison to other resuscitative or intensive care environments. SurePulse is poised to be the new standard of care for the 14 million babies born globally each year that require some form of resuscitation. 



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