Babies in N.Y. aren’t screened for heart defects

Small hearts can sometimes conceal big challenges, especially when it comes to congenital heart defects. The arrival of a new baby to a family is usually a time of anticipation and excitement. However, some babies come into the world with congenital heart defects.

“We could potentially save these tiny lives by screening newborns for heart defects before being discharged from the hospital,” said Merle Myerson, M.D., American Heart Association New York City Board of Directors.

The simple, low-cost test, pulse oximetry, or pulse ox, consists of sensors placed on a baby’s hand and foot to check low blood oxygen levels – a significant indicator of heart issues in babies. With congenital heart defects considered to be the leading cause of birth-defect related deaths in the U.S., new research suggests wider use of pulse ox screening could help identify more than 90 percent of heart defects. Congenital heart disease causes up to three percent of all infant deaths in the first year of life.

In September 2011, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius suggested that critical congenital heart defects screening be added to the “Recommended Uniform Screening Panel” for newborns before they are released from a hospital or birthing facility.

Pulse ox screenings are strongly supported by the American Heart Association as this non-invasive test detects life-threatening congenital heart defects, which otherwise go undetected by current screening methods.

New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maryland and Indiana have all recently passed laws requiring newborns to have this simple screening prior to being discharged from the hospital. The American Heart Association believes that with legislation, the same can be done in New York.

“One life lost is one too many especially when we have simple proven methods to detect for potentially fatal conditions,” said Myerson. Championing this legislation will give our little ones a healthy start in life with by making sure newborns are screened for heart defects using a pulse oximetry test before being discharged from the hospital.”

Courtesy of American Heart Association

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