Fetal monitor first in nation at Community Regional

It’s every parent’s dream – a happy, healthy baby, 10 fingers, 10 toes and all the normal things.

And with all of today’s modern technology, most births go according to plan.  But when they don’t, and the baby gets stressed, the caregivers have to make quick decisions on what’s best for mom and baby. 

That’s where STAN comes in – a first of its kind technology in the United States that is giving doctors who deliver at Community Regional Medical Center help in a heart beat.

STAN is an intrapartum fetal monitor that records fetal heart rate, contractions and performs real-time analysis of the fetal electrocardiogram (ECG). It is based on a new method for fetal monitoring that augments conventional fetal monitoring with a computerized analysis of the fetal ECG utilizing a method called ST Analysis.

Community Regional nurse Mary Burke says this means for the first time ever, an accurate assessment can be made of the level of oxygen in the fetus. 

“This really shows us more definitely what’s going on with the baby and how the baby’s tolerating labor,” Burke said. “We’re able to offer technology to our patients that they’re not able to get anywhere else in the United States right now.”

Community Regional partnered with Neoventa Medical Inc., as the first site in the U.S. to use STAN.

“When we came to the United States we were looking for a smart hospital that was interested in the latest technologies and it was actually this hospital that sought out this technology and looked for us,” said Neoventa representative Maureen Brennan. “The people in Fresno are very lucky to have a hospital that cares enough to go out and seek new technology.”

As an academic medical center, Community Regional provides the highest level of care in the region.

“I don’t think this hospital is OK with status quo,” Brennan said.

Dr. Conrad Chao, chief of obstetrics and gynecology for UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program, was instrumental in bringing this high-tech equipment to Community Regional.

“It gives us a whole new window, a totally different way of looking at how the fetus is doing in labor compared to the conventional way where it just counts the heartbeat itself,” Dr. Chao said.

Dr. Chao is excited about what this technology can do.

“And what’s remarkable about the STAN monitor is that, unlike any other form of fetal monitor ever devised, that it is able to reduce the rate of brain injury in labor to 1/3 of what it was with the conventional monitor,” he said.

And for Valley women giving birth at Community Regional, this means access to a safer delivery.

“We’re able to give those patients cutting-edge technology. And the women [here] deserve this technology and this level of care,” Burke said.

Dr. Chao says one of the goals of obstetrics has been trying to figure out which fetuses are tolerating labor well and which are not.

“So what the STAN monitor does is gives us a much more accurate picture of what’s going on, then enables us to make better clinical judgments about what to do with that patient,” Dr. Chao said.

When there is a lack of oxygen during labor, for the fetus, Dr. Chao says, the brain is the most sensitive organ.

“The kinds of injuries that can occur to the brain during labor include things that could lead to cerebral palsy, severe mental retardation or seizure disorders,” Dr. Chao said.  “These are very significant, serious and long-term bad outcomes.”

And that can mean a lifetime of disabilities for the child. Sometimes it means the difference between life or death according to Burke.

“It tells us when there are significant changes which then reflect that the baby’s heart muscle is not being oxygenated,” Burke said. “And that’s the difference, that’s the important part of the technology.”

Other fetal monitors can’t tell you that, according to Brennan, but STAN can.

“We have harnessed the information an EKG gives for an adult. We can now do it for a fetus.

“Because we are a regional medical center with an academic program we’re able to utilize this technology and give women the highest level of care they can receive anywhere in the world,” Burke said.

And it can make all the difference for babies at Community Regional, thanks to Dr. Chao, nurses and staff.

“This is the most advanced fetal monitor ever designed, it is really the cutting edge of technology and we’re really excited to be a part of its implementation,” Dr. Chao said. 
“You can’t get this technology in San Francisco, you can’t get this technology in New York City, but you can get this technology in Fresno.”

This story was reported by Mary Lisa Russell. She can be reached at mrussell@communitymedical.org.