Recommendations for newborn screening for critical congenital heart disease that were published in 2011 will hopefully mean that more babies with critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) get diagnosed as early as possible. The new recommendation, outlined in a report that was in the November 2011 issue of Pediatrics, "Strategies for Implementing Screening for Critical Congenital Heart Disease," included that all babies be screened "for low blood oxygen saturation through the use of pulse oximtery monitoring to detect CCHD in well-baby and intermediate-care nurseries."
Babies are to be screened before they are discharged from the nursery, preferably when they are 24 to 48 hours old, or as close to discharge as possible if they are going home before 24 hours.
The new recommendation is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology Foundation and the American Heart Association, is mandated to be done by law in some states, including California, Connecticut, New Hamshire, New Jersey, Maryland, Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia, and is being done voluntarily at many other hospitals in other states. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has also approved adding critical congenital heart disease to the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel, which also includes testing for PKU, sickle cell disease, hearing loss, and hypothyroidism, etc.
Since the publication of the guideline, the American Heart Association has worked to increase pulse ox screening for critical congenital heart disease among newborns.
"Pulse ox screening is non-invasive, inexpensive and can potentially save a child's life," said Maureen Cassidy, Vice President of Advocacy for the American Heart Association's Midwest Affiliate. "In fact, new research suggests that wider use of pulse ox would help identify more than 90 percent of heart defects."
From Illinois to Wisconsin, the AHA Midwest Affiliate is working to introduce and pass pulse ox legislation so that all newborns in these states would be screened for critical congenital heart disease prior to discharge. This would help prevent babies with unrecognized critical congenital heart disease, some of whom appear healthy, from going home, only to have serious complications and require emergency care soon after.
What is being done in your state? What can you do to help? Parent advocates have been working to get pulse oximetry screening laws passed in more and more states. Help spread the word about this simple test so that more babies can be diagnosed with critical congenital heart disease before they leave the hospital.