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