Medical Policies - OBGYN
Home Uterine Activity Monitoring
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Home uterine activity monitoring through a monitoring device and/or daily nursing contact is considered experimental, investigational and/or unproven.
The home uterine activity monitor (HUAM) is a device intended to provide early detection of preterm labor (PTL) in women at high risk of developing PTL and preterm birth. A monitoring device worn by the patient collects data on uterine activity. After using the device, the patient transmits data recordings to a provider/practitioner unit located in a medical office or clinic who assesses risk of PTL onset based on frequency of uterine contractions and responses to interview questions.
The HUAM device consists of a guard-ring tocodynamometer (worn as a belt around the abdomen), a data recorder, and a data transmitter. Usually, the patient is instructed to use the device daily for two 1-hour periods. After monitoring, the patient transmits the recordings by telephone modem link to a remote base station. Base station nurses using the provider/practitioner unit not only facilitate transmission and analysis of the monitor tracings, they also maintain daily telephone contact with the patient to assess signs and symptoms and to provide advice and counseling.
Nurses employed in HUAM services look for evidence of the onset of PTL, either on the basis of uterine activity exceeding a threshold level or from the findings of a telephone interview with the patient. Signs and symptoms of PTL include back pain, increased vaginal discharge, menstrual-like cramps, and pelvic pressure or heaviness. The threshold number of uterine contractions signaling the possible onset of PTL is usually 4 to 6 per hour. If signs and symptoms are present or the uterine activity exceeds a certain threshold, patients are instructed to perform the following: empty the bladder, hydrate orally, and assume the left lateral recumbent position. The patient is also instructed to re-monitor for one additional hour. If uterine activity still exceeds threshold or signs and symptoms persist, the patient is instructed to see her physician immediately for a cervical examination. The cervical examination would then play a pivotal role in diagnosing whether PTL is occurring and whether to initiate tocolytic therapy.
Proponents of HUAM believe that the technology can reliably detect early increased uterine contractions that usually precede the onset of PTL, thus leading to a sufficiently early diagnosis of PTL that allows for effective clinical interventions (e.g., bedrest, tocolytic therapy) to delay birth.
In March 2001, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reclassified HUAMs from class III (Premarket Approval [PMA]) to class II (Special Controls) devices. The HUAM is a post-amendment device and thus, was automatically reclassified into class III. One device with 510(k) marketing clearance for a HUAM device is the Fetal Assist™ Monitor (Huntleigh Diagnostics, Eatontown, NJ). Additional PMA devices without any labeling information include the Genesis® HUAM System (Matria Healthcare, Inc., Marietta, GA) and the Carefone HUAM System (Carelink Corp, Santa Ana, CA). Product Codes available include HFM and LQK.
The HUAM is described as an electronic system for at home antepartum measurement of uterine contractions, data transmission by telephone to a clinical setting, and for receipt and display of the uterine contraction data at the clinic. The HUAM system comprises a tocotransducer, an at-home recorder, a modem, and a computer and monitor that receive, process, and display data. The FDA indicates that the device is intended for use in women at least 24 weeks’ gestation with a previous preterm delivery to aid in the detection of PTL.
The policy was created based in part on a 1996 Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) Technology Evaluation Center (TEC) Assessment (1) and was regularly updated with peer reviewed literature using the MedLine database. The most recent search was completed through September 2017. The following is a summary of the key literature.
At the time the 1996 BCBSA TEC Assessment was published, there had been numerous randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of home uterine activity monitor (HUAM), many of these contained methodologic weaknesses. (1) In addition, several meta-analyses had been published. The 3 meta-analyses that specifically addressed whether HUAM or nursing contact, alone or combined, achieved better health outcomes than standard care found that the data were insufficient to support the clinical use of HUAM. None of the meta-analyses identified significant effects of monitoring on referral to neonatal intensive care unit, (NICU) the intermediate outcome most related to neonatal morbidity.
In 2015, a Cochrane review was published on HUAM for detecting preterm labor (PTL). (2) The review identified 15 RCTs that compared use of HUAM to standard care, or to an alternative type of surveillance, for women at increased risk of PTL. Although the literature was searched through November 2011, all of the trials identified were published in 1999 or earlier. The trials included a total of 6008 participants; sample sizes ranged from fewer than 100 participants to more than 1000 participants. Only 2 studies (those with a sham-control) were double-blind. Two of the 15 trials did not contribute data to the meta-analysis; one did not report relevant outcomes, and the other did not report data in a form that could be included in the analyses. Two trials (total sample size: 2589) reported the perinatal mortality rate as a study outcome. A pooled analysis of data from these studies did not find a statistically significant difference in perinatal mortality in groups that did and did not receive HUAM (risk ratio [RR]: 1.22, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.86 to 1.72). In addition, in a pooled analysis of data from 8 trials (total sample size: 4,834), there was not a significant difference between groups in the rate of preterm birth at less than 37 weeks’ gestation (RR: 0.85, 95% CI: 0.72 to 1.01). There was a significantly lower rate of preterm birth before 34 weeks’ gestation in women managed with HUAM compared to an alternative intervention (RR: 0.78, 95% CI: 0.62 to 0.99). That analysis included 3 studies with a total sample size of 1596. However, a sensitivity analysis that excluded data from the 2 lower-quality and substantially smaller trials and included one trial with n=1,292 found a non-significant difference between groups in the rate of preterm birth before 34 weeks (RR: 0.75, 95% CI: 0.57 to 1.00). Similarly, a pooled analysis of 5 studies (n=2,367) found a significantly lower rate of admission to NICUs in the group that used HUAM (RR: 0.77, 95% CI: 0.62 to 0.96). The difference in NICU admission rates was not statistically significant when lower-quality studies were excluded and only the single higher-quality large study (n=1,292) remained in the analysis (RR: 0.86, 95% CI: 0.74 to 1.01). The study authors concluded, “[HUAM] may result in fewer admissions to a neonatal intensive care unit but more unscheduled antenatal visits and tocolytic treatment. There is no impact on maternal and perinatal outcomes such as perinatal mortality of incidence of preterm birth.”
In 2009, the Health Technology Assessment program in the United Kingdom published a systematic review of literature on various screening techniques for preventing spontaneous preterm birth; one of these techniques was HUAM. (3) The review of HUAM included three trials with a total sample size of 618. Only one of the trials was considered to be of good quality; the others were considered to be poor quality. Study findings were not pooled due to clinical heterogeneity. According to the assessment, the trials found no statistically significant difference in the incidence of spontaneous preterm birth (PTB) before 34 or 37 weeks’ gestation in women who received HUAM compared to controls. Similarly, there were no statistically significant differences in the rate of admission to NICUs.
Two of the studies with larger sample sizes and designed to determine whether adding HUAM to nursing contact would improve clinical outcomes are described below. In 1995, the Collaborative Home Uterine Monitoring Study Group published a randomized double-blind multicenter trial that randomly assigned 1,292 women to active or sham HUAM compared to twice-daily nursing contact. (4) The investigators found similar outcomes in the 2 groups e.g. rates of PTL, preterm birth, and need for neonatal intensive care. Another large sturdy was published in 1998 by Dyson et al. (5) The investigators randomly assigned 2,422 pregnant women at high risk for PTL to receive either weekly contact with a nurse, daily contact with a nurse, or daily contact with a nurse plus HUAM. Therefore, this study was designed to determine whether adding HUAM to nursing contact would improve clinical outcomes. However, there were no significant differences among the groups for the primary endpoint of birth at less than 35 weeks’ gestation. The authors concluded that women who have daily contact with a nurse, with or without home monitoring of uterine activity, have no better pregnancy outcomes than women who have weekly contact with a nurse.
Also in 2009, Rittenberg et al. published a retrospective study comparing outcomes in high-risk pregnant women who received weekly nursing visits with injections of 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone caproate (17P) versus daily perinatal nursing surveillance, including HUAM, twice a day. (6) Eligibility criteria included a singleton pregnancy, less than 27 weeks’ gestation, previous spontaneous preterm delivery (SPTD), and no current signs or symptoms of PTL. Patients receiving 17P and HUAM patients were matched on a one-to-one basis; 342 matched pairs were included in the analysis. Primary and secondary study outcomes are summarized in the Table 1:
Table 1. Primary and Secondary Study Outcomes (6)
Weekly contact with 17P No (%)
Daily contact with HUAM No. (%)
SPTD before 37 wks
SPTD before 35 wks
SPTD before 32 wks
Hospitalized for suspected preterm labor
Diagnosis of preterm labor
Preterm premature rupture of membranes
HUAM: home uterine activity monitoring;
SPTD: spontaneous preterm delivery.
* Correction provided by study author, Dr. Rittenberg, October 2009: Table III in the published article contained an error in the reporting of data on SPTD before 37 weeks in the 17P group.
The rate of spontaneous recurrent preterm delivery, the primary outcome, did not differ significantly between the two groups when calculated as before 37, 35, or 32 weeks’ gestation. The authors concluded that there is no difference in recurrent SPTD between women treated with 17P and daily surveillance with HUAM. However, it is not valid to draw this conclusion for several reasons. First of all, there were statistically significant differences between groups on three of four reported secondary outcomes. Women in the 17P group experienced significantly less tocolysis, were diagnosed less often with PTL, and had fewer hospitalizations for suspected PTL. Moreover, the study was not randomized, and we cannot be certain that they were equivalent at baseline; there may have been demographic or clinical differences between the groups, which affected study outcomes. Furthermore, as noted elsewhere in this summary, it is also difficult to separate the impact of HUAM from that of nurse visits. In addition to HUAM, patients in this group received daily rather than weekly nursing contact. Also, because the study was retrospective, we cannot be certain that a consistent protocol was followed. Finally, a company that provides in-home prenatal care including 17P and HUAM supplied the study data, and two authors were employees of the company.
There is less evidence on the use of HUAM for the tertiary prevention of preterm delivery. Most trials on HUAM included only patients who were considered “at risk” for PTL, and many specifically excluded those patients who had a history of PTL in the current pregnancy. Four trials were identified that evaluated the use of HUAM for tertiary prevention; none of these found that HUAM improved health outcomes. The trials are briefly summarized below:
• Iams et al. conducted a trial looking at HUAM in 76 women who had been successfully treated for PTL. (7) Women were randomly assigned to receive either HUAM or a program of education and uterine self-palpation. Both groups also received nursing contact five days per week. Rates of recurrent PTL and preterm delivery did not differ between the groups.
• Blondel et al. randomly assigned 74 women with successfully treated PTL to either undergo HUAM and nursing contact or weekly or biweekly home nursing visits. (8) There was no significant difference in the rate of preterm deliveries between the two groups.
• Nagey et al. reported on a study that randomly assigned 56 women with a history of successfully treated PTL to receive either HUAM or standard treatment. (9) There was no difference in the incidence in preterm birth between the two groups.
• Brown et al. reported on the results of a trial that randomly assigned 162 women who had experienced an episode of PTL in the current pregnancy to undergo HUAM plus standard care or standard care alone. (10) There were no differences in outcomes between the two groups, including percentage of women delivered at less than 35 weeks’ gestation, the term delivery rate, neonatal intensive care admissions, and percentage of women receiving corticosteroid treatment for prevention of neonatal complications.
In 2017, Urquhart et al., performed a second Cochrane review searching the literature to assess whether home uterine monitoring is effective in improving the outcomes for mothers and their infants considered to be high-risk of preterm birth, when compared with care that does not include the use of a HUAM. (11) Their systematic review revealed 15 studies with 6008 enrolled patients, with 13 studies contributed data. Patients using HUAMs were less likely to experience preterm birth at less than 34 weeks (risk ratio (RR) 0.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.62 to 0.99; 3 studies, 1596 patients; fixed-effect analysis) (GRADE high). There was no difference in the rate of perinatal mortality (RR 1.22, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.72; 2 studies, 2589 babies) (GRADE low). There was no difference in the number of preterm births at less than 37 weeks (average RR 0.85, CI 0.72 to 1.01; 8 studies, 4834 patients; random-effects, (GRADE very low). Infants born to mothers using HUAMs were less likely to be admitted to NICUs (average RR 0.77, 95% CI 0.62 to 0.96; 5 studies, 2367 babies; random-effects, (GRADE moderate). Patients using HUAMs made more unscheduled antenatal visits (mean difference (MD) 0.48, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.64; 2 studies, 1994 patients) (GRADE moderate). Patients using HUAMs were also more likely to have prophylactic tocolytic drug therapy (average RR 1.21, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.45; seven studies, 4316 women; random-effects). The number of antenatal hospital admissions did not differ between home groups (RR 0.91, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.11; 3 studies, 1494 patients [GRADE low]). The authors found no data on maternal anxiety or acceptability. The authors concluded that HUAMs may result in fewer admissions to a NICU, but result in more unscheduled antenatal visits and tocolytic treatment; the level of evidence is generally low to moderate. There is no impact on maternal and perinatal outcomes such as perinatal mortality or incidence of preterm birth when using HUAMs.
Several of the studies summarized above were included in the ECRI Institute assessment released May 2014. (15) ECRI concluded that “HUAM systems have been widely prescribed for women with at-risk pregnancies; however, the evidence for their effectiveness has been questioned.”
Clinical Trials and Unpublished Studies
A search of ClinicalTrials.gov on September 7, 2017 did not identify any ongoing or unpublished trials that would likely influence this review.
Professional Guidelines and Position Statements
• The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) current topic page on HUAM states, “Home uterine monitoring is no longer considered a part of standard obstetric care and is not relevant to clinical practice. The USPSTF will not update its 1996 recommendation” and has inactivated the topic. (12) This 2017 update reaffirmed that the USPSTF had not updated their guidelines on HUAM.
• In 2002, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) issued a news release declaring that home uterine monitors are not useful for predicting premature birth. (13) The news release describes a study sponsored by the NICHD which found that ambulatory monitoring of uterine contractions did not identify women most likely to have preterm delivery. This 2017 update reaffirmed that the NICHD has elected not to update their guidelines on HUAM.
• In 2003, an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Practice Bulletin included the following statement: “No evidence exists to support the use of tocolytic therapy, HUAM, elective cerclage, or narcotics to prevent preterm delivery in women with contractions but no cervical change.” (14) The position statement was affirmed in 2009 and again in 2015.
Summary of Evidence
The home uterine activity monitor (HUAM) is a device that can be worn by pregnant women and is solely intended to detect preterm labor. There is substantial literature on home uterine activity monitoring for reducing preterm birth in high-risk pregnant women. Numerous randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have been performed prior to the year 2000. The trials that were the largest in size and highest in quality have not reported a benefit for HUAM, and systematic reviews of the available trials have not concluded that health outcomes are improved. The available evidence suggests that HUAM does not improve health outcomes, and HUAM is not recommended by national organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Thus, home uterine activity monitoring is considered experimental, investigational and/or unproven.
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1. Home Uterine Activity Monitoring for Secondary Prevention of Preterm Birth. Chicago, Illinois: Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association – Technology Evaluation Center Assessment Program (1996) 11(15).
2. Urquhart C, Currell R, Harlow F, et al. Home uterine monitoring for detecting preterm labor. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Jan 6 2015; 5:CD006172. PMID 25558862
3. Honest H, Forbes CA, Duree KH, et al. Screening to prevent spontaneous preterm birth: systematic reviews of accuracy and effectiveness literature with economic modeling. Health Technol Assess. Sep 2009; 13 (43):1-627. PMID 19796569
4. A multicenter randomized controlled trial of home uterine monitoring: active versus sham device. The Collaborative Home Uterine Monitoring Study (CHUMS) Group. Am J Obstet Gynecol. Oct 1995; 173(4):1120-7. PMID 7485304
5. Dyson DC, Danbe KH, Bamber JA, et al. Monitoring women at risk for preterm labor. N Engl J Med. Jan 1998; 338(1):15-9. PMID 9414326
6. Rittenberg C, Newman RB, et al. Preterm birth prevention by 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone caproate vs. daily nursing surveillance. J Reprod Med. Feb 2009; 54(2):47-52. PMID 19301566
7. Iams JD, Johnson FF, O’Shaughnessy RW. Ambulatory uterine activity monitoring in the post-hospital care of patients with preterm labor. Am J Perinatol. Apr 1990; 7(2):170-3. PMID 23311280
8. Blondel B, Breart G, Berthoux Y, et al. Home uterine activity monitoring in France: a randomized, controlled trial. Am J Obstet Gynecol. Aug 1992; 167(2):424-9. PMID 1497046
9. Nagey DA, Bailey-Jones C, Herman AA. Randomized comparison of home uterine activity monitoring and routine care in patients discharged after treatment for preterm labor. Obstet Gynecol. Sep 1993; 82(3):319-23. PMID 8355927
10. Brown HL, Britton KA, Brizendine EJ, et al. A randomized comparison of home uterine activity monitoring in the outpatient management of women treated for preterm labor. Am J Obstet Gynecol. Apr 1999; 180(4):798-805. PMID 10203647
11. Urquhart C, Currell R, Harlow F, et al. Home uterine monitoring for detecting preterm labour. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Feb 15 2017; 2:CD006172. PMID 28205207
12. USPSTF – Screening Home Uterine Activity Monitoring. January 1996 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force., Available at: <http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org> (accessed on September 7, 2017).
13. NICHD – Home uterine monitors not useful for predicting premature birth. January 23, 2002. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Available at: <http://www.nih.gov> (accessed on September 7, 2017).
14. ACOG – Innovative Practice: Ethical Guidelines (Home Uterine Activity Monitoring) Number 352, December 2006 (reaffirmed 2015). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Available at <http://www.guideline.gov> (accessed on September 7, 2017).
15. ECRI Institute. Home Uterine Activity Monitoring for Women at Risk for Preterm Birth. Plymouth Meeting (PA): ECRI Institute; 2014 May. 6 p. (Hotline Response).
16. Home Uterine Activity Monitoring (Archived). Chicago, Illinois: Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Medical Policy Reference Manual (2013 November) OB/GYN Reproduction 4.01.09.
|10/15/2018||Reviewed. No changes.|
|11/15/2017||Document updated with literature review. Coverage unchanged.|
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|3/15/2016||Document updated with literature review. Coverage unchanged.|
|2/1/2015||Reviewed. No changes.|
|5/1/2013||Document updated with literature review. Coverage unchanged. Rationale reorganized.|
|4/15/2011||Document updated with literature review. No coverage changes.|
|10/1/2008||New medical document originating from deleted policies OB401.017, Management of Preterm Labor and DME101.014, Home Uterine Monitor. Medical policy title changed.|
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|Title:||Effective Date:||End Date:|
|Home Uterine Activity Monitoring||11-15-2017||10-14-2018|
|Home Uterine Activity Monitoring (HUAM)||01-15-2017||11-14-2017|
|Home Uterine Activity Monitoring (HUAM)||03-15-2016||01-14-2017|
|Home Uterine Activity Monitoring (HUAM)||02-01-2015||03-14-2016|
|Home Uterine Activity Monitoring (HUAM)||05-01-2013||01-31-2015|
|Home Uterine Activity Monitoring (HUAM)||04-15-2011||04-30-2013|
|Home Uterine Activity Monitoring||10-01-2008||04-14-2011|