London: A hand-held scanner, costing as low as 40 pounds and of the size of a computer mouse, if plugged into any computer can reveal vital information about the foetus, that can save lives of thousands of women and children, has been developed by British engineers.

The device, developed in Newcastle University could be a big help to medical teams working in the world’s poorest nations with basic, antenatal information that could save thousands of lives.

The device, as big as a computer mouse, works in a similar way to existing ultrasound scanners, using pulses of high frequency sound to build up a picture of the unborn child on the computer screen, according to a Newcastle statement.

However, unlike the technology used in most hospitals across Britain costing anywhere from 20,000-100,000 pounds, the scanner created by Jeff Neasham and research associate Dave Graham at Newcastle can be manufactured for as little as 30-40 pounds.

Tested by experts in the Regional Medical Physics Department at the Freeman Hospital, part of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the scanner produces an output power that is 10-100 times lower than conventional hospital ultrasounds.

“Here in the UK, we take these routine, but potentially lifesaving, tests for granted,” explains Neasham, a sonar expert based in the University’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

“Imaging to obtain even the simplest information such as the child’s position in the womb or how it is developing is simply not available to women in many parts of the world,” Neasham said.

“We hope the very low cost of this device and the fact that it can run on any standard computer made in the last 10 years means basic antenatal imaging could finally be made available to all women,” Neasham added.

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