OBJECTIVE: Doppler ultrasound (US) is the most commonly applied method to measure the fetal heart rate (fHR). When the fetal heart is not properly located within the ultrasonic beam, fHR measurements often fail. As a consequence, clinical staff need to reposition the US transducer on the maternal abdomen, which can be a time consuming and tedious task.
APPROACH: In this article, a method is presented to aid clinicians with the positioning of the US transducer to produce robust fHR measurements. A maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) algorithm is developed, which provides information on fetal heart location using the power of the Doppler signals received in the individual elements of a standard US transducer for fHR recordings. The performance of the algorithm is evaluated with simulations and in vitro experiments performed on a beating-heart setup.
MAIN RESULTS: Both the experiments and the simulations show that the heart location can be accurately determined with an error of less than 7 mm within the measurement volume of the employed US transducer.
SIGNIFICANCE: The results show that the developed algorithm can be used to provide accurate feedback on fetal heart location for improved positioning of the US transducer, which may lead to improved measurements of the fHR.