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Human Birthing Simulator May Help Treat Shoulder Dystocia


Engineering students at Kettering University have a robust tool to teach them how to help professionals in the medical community treat shoulder dystocia. A human birthing simulator, called Noelle ─ complete with short blonde hair and wearing a hospital gown, socks and even a medical bracelet ─ has the power to provide students with a life-like learning experience.

“As much real-world experience as we can give them, they are going understand the environment better,” said Theresa Atkinson, mechanical engineering professor at Kettering. “As an engineer, if you understand the environment physicians are working in a little better, you will do a better job making a tool that works well for them.”

The Genesys Medical Center donated Noelle to Kettering. When she is fully functional, her eyes will open and close, she’ll breathe, she’ll have veins in her right arm and she’ll even have a voice. In fact, her abdomen even has enough space to fit a fake fetus during the birthing simulation.

Noelle offers students enhanced learning experience

Both biomedical engineering and premed students can use Noelle to enhance their learning, Atkinson said. Premed students will be able to use the robot to gain a deeper understanding of medical practices like laparoscopic surgery and the birthing process. Engineering students can use it to construct tools like medical monitors, surgical instruments, artificial joints and heart catheters.

“The tools for that type of work, of course, depend on physicians and engineers working together,” Atkinson said. “In the classroom, you are pretty far removed from the real world. Anything we can do to bring the real world into the classroom will really help the students understand what they need to do once they get into the real world.”

Noelle hasn’t been at Kettering for very long, but a group of engineering students have already used her to create a teaching tool for medical students as part of their capstone class. The group created a plastic tool that would be used with Noelle to re-create shoulder dystocia.

The tool would expose medical students to a more life-like experience of what to do when dysplasia occurs, allowing them to learn the best techniques to safely remove the baby. The use of Noelle made the design process much easier, allowing students to take measurements and see an example of what they were crafting.

Filing a birth injury lawsuit

Shoulder dystocia takes place during vaginal birth, when an infant’s shoulders become lodged inside the mother’s body. This complication brings risks for both the mother and child. Medical professionals must be properly trained to handle shoulder dystocia, as this condition cannot typically be predicted or prevented.

In most cases, both the mother and baby will be fine and suffer no permanent damage. However, some parents are forced to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, when the mother or baby sustains serious injury. For example, in the most extreme cases the baby could be left paralyzed, suffer brain damage or even death. The mother could experience heavy bleeding after birth or a tearing of the uterus, vagina, cervix or rectum.

Most well-trained medical professionals are able to help their patients avoid unnecessary complications. Parents may be eligible to file a birth injury lawsuit if a doctor’s mismanagement of shoulder dystocia during delivery results in irreparable physical harm or death.