New Heart Screening at Birth Could Save Your Child’s Life

newborn

Shortly after delivery, your newborn will undergo many different newborn screening tests, which Kathy Murdock wrote about in her article about Comprehensive Newborn Screening.   What many new parents may not know is that there is a fairly new heart screening called the pulse oximetry newborn screening.  This painless, non-invasive test is completed using a pulse oximeter machine, which is a sensor placed on your baby's skin.  The pulse oximeter measures how much oxygen is in the blood.  A low blood oxygen level may indicate that your baby could have a Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD), which is a malformation of the heart that develops before a baby is born.  CCHD is the most common birth defect and the leading cause of infant death.  Many types of CCHD are treatable if caught early.

Pulse Oximetry Newborn Screening Protocol

Some newborns with CCHD can appear healthy the first few hours or days of life, but then quickly have major health complications, requiring emergency care.  Many infants with CCHD require surgical or catheter intervention within the first year of life.  With the implementation of this newborn screening protocol, newborns requiring necessary medical intervention can receive the life saving treatment they need right away.  

The pulse oximetry newborn screening should be performed between 24-48 hours of life. Currently there is no nationwide standard for pulse oximetry screening, but several states have pulse oximetry laws. Additionally, many hospitals have begun to implement pulse oximetry screening programs. It is a parents right to request this vital screening, so be sure to ask your doctor about your hospital’s protocols prior to delivery.

Pulse Oximetry Screening Results

Pass: The baby's pulse oxygen reading is 95% or greater in right hand and foot and a difference between less than 3% in right hand and foot

  • An infant that passes, receives normal newborn care

Fail: Pulse oximetry readings less than 95% in right hand and foot and a difference of more than 3% in right hand and foot

  • An infant that fails the screening requires additional testing

It is possible to pass the pulse oximetry screening and still have a CCHD. Memorize the warnings signs of a possible congenital heart defect, which include:

  • dusky coloring
  • turning blue
  • trouble feeding
  • rapid breathing
  • sweating along the forehead
  • tiring easily

 Should your infant exhibit any of the symptoms, immediately report them to his or her doctor and request an examination.

For a full list of states that have implemented Pulse Oximetry Laws please visit Pulse Ox Advocacy.

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Were you aware of this new screening? Will you ask for this additional screening now that you are aware of it?

Image via Mindi Stavish

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New Heart Screening at Birth Could Save Your Child’s Life

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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1 comment

  1. Thank you so much for writing about newborn heart defect screening and linking to the resource I created, Pulse Ox Advocacy. I’m an advocate because in 2009 my daughter died suddenly in my arms while I breastfed her. The coroner diagnosed her congenital heart defect. Can’t help but share her story here. http://www.corasstory.com

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