Kenya’s fight to reduce maternal and child mortality has received a major boost with the introduction of a portable ultrasound scan for use in remote and resource-poor areas.
If incorporated into the universal health coverage programme that is set to be rolled out countrywide, the technology could be a decisive step in combating maternal and child mortality in Kenya. According the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, the national Maternal Mortality Ratio is currently at 362 deaths per 100,000 live births.
An ultrasound scan is a machine that uses high-frequency sound waves to create images showing the inside of the body. Dubbed Lumify, the device developed by Phillips Africa can be used in areas where a conventional ultrasound used in hospitals may be far away from the expectant mother’s home.
The portable ultrasound has been designed for emergency departments and urgent care centres, as well as other clinical settings, and will operate from a compatible smart device connected to a Philips ultrasound transducer.
To operate the device, a health care worker needs to have a smart phone or tablet with an Android port connection that will enable the two to be connected. “We have an app called Reacts that enables the Lumify to log onto the interactive network developed by the cardiologist, critical care physician and innovator Dr Yannick Beaulieu,” said Phillips Africa chief executive Jasper Westerink.
He said the ultrasound would ease the process of pregnancy monitoring and diagnosis of related complications during home visits by health workers and volunteers.
According to Kenya Medical Training College lecturer Victoria Koi, ultrasound scans are used to assess the baby’s development. An expectant mother with a normal pregnancy should go for at least one scan within the gestation period, she said. For effective monitoring of a normal pregnancy, the academic said the scan should ideally be done during the first trimester, between 18 and 26 to 30 weeks. The requirements are, however, different if doctors suspect that a pregnancy could be having complications.
“For a complicated pregnancy, the mother needs at least three scans, with the first at eight to 11 weeks, the second at 21 to 28 weeks and the third one at 31 weeks,” said Ms Koi.
Lumify is part of a portable Phillips medical kit dubbed the Community Life Centre outreach kit that is being tested in a pilot research project set to take place in Makueni County. Lumify costs Sh513,000 per kit while the conventional ultrasound scan will cost upwards of Sh4.1 million.