Jim Cast Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1779

)

September 18, 1995

June Malone/Bob Lessels Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL (Phone: 205/544-0034)

RELEASE: 95-153 SPACE-AGE FORCEPS COULD MAKE INFANT DELIVERY SAFER NASA technology using composite materials and fiber optic sensing may soon be at work in hospital delivery rooms, making childbirth safer and easier. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, recently signed a Space Act Agreement with Dr. Jason H. Collins of the Collins Clinic in Slidell, LA, to redesign the obstetrical forceps used to properly position an infant in a mother's womb prior to delivery. The research at Marshall will seek to identify a suitable composite material from which safer forceps can be made, and also help design instrumentation to measure the forces being applied to an infant during an instrumentassisted delivery. "Metal forceps currently used do not allow the attending physician to assess the force the instrument is placing on the infant," according to Dr. Collins. "If excessive, the infant could be injured." The instrumentation of the forceps will benefit medical students as well. Currently, obstetricians must acquire a "feel" for their instruments during actual infant deliveries to ascertain how much force is safe. The instrumented forceps will allow obstetrical students to learn to use forceps within safe limits before entering practice. "We hope to complete work on the new forceps early next

year," said Stan Smeltzer of Marshall's Structures and Dynamics Laboratory. Smeltzer is the design engineer on the Marshall team working with Dr. Collins. "Using composite materials will help ensure that a safer distribution of pressure will be applied to the infant through the forceps used by the physician," Smeltzer said. -more-2"By using space program instrumentation technology, fiber optic sensors will be embedded in the composite material during the manufacturing process," said Seth Lawson of Marshall's Materials and Processes Laboratory. Lawson is the manufacturing engineer of the team working with Dr. Collins. "These sensors will enable the physician to monitor forces on the infant throughout the delivery." NASA's involvement in the forceps program resulted from a request for technical assistance from Dr. Collins to Marshall's Technology Transfer Office. The two Marshall engineers will perform the design and analysis, produce design drawings, identify suitable composite materials, and conduct testing of samples of candidate materials for the composite forceps. The Collins Clinic will develop and clinically qualify the new obstetrical forceps. Marshall's Technology Transfer Office is responsible for the direct transfer of NASA-inspired ideas and solutions to businesses throughout the Southeast. The office also interacts with companies and government organizations around the country, providing assistance for a variety of technology challenges.

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