1. ITV Report

Newcastle scientists develop life-saving ultrasound scanner

A low cost ultrasound scanner that can be plugged into any computer or laptop has been developed by Newcastle University.

The hand-held USB device generates vital information about unborn children which is then displayed on a computer screen.

Engineers believe the device could provide medical teams working in the world's poorest nations with basic, ante-natal information that could save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children.

Scientists hope the new scanner could save thousands of babies' lives in the developing world. Credit: Newcastle University

Ultrasound technology in most UK hospitals can cost anywhere between £20,000 and £100,000. The portable technology created by Jeff Neasham and Research Associate Dave Graham can be manufactured for as little as £30 to £40.

"Here in the UK we take these routine, but potentially lifesaving, tests for granted.

"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.

"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."

– Jeff Neasham, sonar expert at Newcastle University

More than 250,000 women die each year from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, almost all of then in developing countries. Experts say most of these death are avoidable and a lack of access to equipment is behind the deaths.

Mr Neasham added that the technology could be used to diagnose a range of conditions:

"There is obviously the potential to use it to go beyond obstetrics by using it to diagnose conditions such as gallstones, or other conditions that readily show up with ultrasound imaging. Even vets and farmers are interested in affordable imaging."