You may remember an article that appeared on the Funky Heart! blog in February that highlighted the SQUID, which stands for Superconducting QUantum Interference Device. A SQUID is a super sensitive magnetometer that is able to detect magnetic fields and determine their strength. SQUIDs could have medical applications, but are rarely used because they are much too strong. For a squid to be effective it has to be shielded from all the sources of metal around it; and how much metal is in your average hospital? The SQUID highlighted earlier had better shielding and an easier control system.
There are very few SQUID units in hospitals today, and the ones that exist are being used for adult brain scan. But there is one unit dedicated to the study of fetal hearts, located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr. Janette Strasburger supervises the patients during the procedure, which is painless and non invasive. The result is an hour long continuous recording of the baby’s heart rhythm and “the closest thing there is to a cardiac intensive care unit for fetuses,” Dr. Strasburger says.
Needless to say, the unit is much too big to be portable and patients have to travel to Wisconsin. That could be changing, as a portable unit is currently under construction.