A review study of fetal circulatory models to develop a digital twin of a fetus in a perinatal life support system

Bettine G van Willigen*, M Beatrijs van der Hout-van der Jagt, Wouter Huberts, Frans N van de Vosse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Background: Preterm birth is the main cause of neonatal deaths with increasing mortality and morbidity rates with decreasing GA at time of birth. Currently, premature infants are treated in neonatal intensive care units to support further development. However, the organs of, especially, extremely premature infants (born before 28 weeks of GA) are not mature enough to function optimally outside the womb. This is seen as the main cause of the high morbidity and mortality rates in this group. A liquid-filled incubator, a so-called PLS system, could potentially improve these numbers for extremely premature infants, since this system is designed to mimic the environment of the natural womb. To support the development and implementation of such a complex system and to interpret vital signals of the fetus during a PLS system operation, a digital twin is proposed. This mathematical model is connected with a manikin representing the digital and physical twin of the real-life PLS system. Before developing a digital twin of a fetus in a PLS system, its functional and technical requirements are defined and existing mathematical models are evaluated.

Method and results: This review summarizes existing 0D and 1D fetal circulatory models that potentially could be (partly) adopted for integration in a digital twin of a fetus in a PLS system based on predefined requirements. The 0D models typically describe hemodynamics and/or oxygen transport during specific events, such as the transition from fetus to neonate. Furthermore, these models can be used to find hemodynamic differences between healthy and pathological physiological states. Rather than giving a global description of an entire cardiovascular system, some studies focus on specific organs or vessels. In order to analyze pressure and flow wave profiles in the cardiovascular system, transmission line or 1D models are used. As for now, these models do not include oxygen transport.

Conclusion: This study shows that none of the models identified in literature meet all the requirements relevant for a digital twin of a fetus in a PLS system. Nevertheless, it does show the potential to develop this digital twin by integrating (parts) of models into a single model.

Original languageEnglish
Article number915846
Number of pages18
JournalFrontiers in pediatrics
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2022


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