A new test using a smart electronic pen promises to revolutionise the prevention of premature births by accurately predicting the chances of pre-term delivery up to three months in advance.

The “pencil-looking” device which uses state of the art digital signal processing techniques, will save the NHS £1 billion a year and can alert doctors to tell-tale accumulations of moisture in the cervix, giving them the chance to intervene and artificially prolong pregnancy.

The new test, which has been trialled at an NHS hospital in Sheffield, takes a maximum of 15 seconds and is so simple it could be used by GPs or nursing staff.

Gynaecologists currently rely on time-consuming and expensive procedures such as ultrasounds or foetal fibronectin swabs, which yield many false positives and, even when accurate, can only predict premature birth a few days hence.

By contrast, the new device can detect tiny amounts of moisture on the outside of the body and uses wireless technology to send a signal to a computer which give the medic a “red, amber, green” result indicating how likely a premature birth is.

The test, which could be ready to roll out across the NHS within three years, can accurately predict premature birth from as early as 20 weeks gestation.

Arrow Technical Services Ltd are involved in using advanced electronic techniques to develop this project further for more complex applications as well as several other related medical devices in partnership with the teams at The Sheffield Hallamshire Hospital and Sheffield University.  We are proud to be part of this technology development program.