Kentucky’s birthing hospitals have implemented a crucial screening for newborns, adding pulse oximetry testing for Critical Congenital Heart Disease to the list of routine newborn screenings. For early detection of this life-threatening birth defect, the testing is now performed on every infant before hospital discharge.
On April 17, 2013, Gov. Steve Beshear signed Senate Bill 125 into law mandating screening of newborns for Critical Congenital Heart Disease. In honor of the law and its recent implementation, the Governor has proclaimed Feb. 7-14, Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week in Kentucky.
“Newborn screenings are essential to detect the presence of life-threatening birth defects, conditions and diseases early on,” said Stephanie Mayfield, M.D. commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health. “For many of our children, early screening can mean the difference between good health and well-being and one spent dealing with a debilitating condition. It can even mean the difference between life and death.”
Congenital Heart Disease is the most common birth defect in the United States and the leading cause of infant death related to birth defects. Congenital Heart Disease affects one in every 100 babies.
One-third of the cases of Congenital Heart Disease are a more serious type of the disease known as Critical Congenital Heart Disease. Due to the nature of this particular type of the condition, half of the cases of Critical Congenital Heart Disease are discovered after the baby is discharged from the hospital because the baby appears healthy.
“If not caught before hospital discharge, serious or life-threatening complications could occur within the first days or weeks of life,” said Mayfield.
Pulse oximetry testing is quick, painless and reliable. By utilizing the screening methods developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and endorsed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 85 percent of Critical Congenital Heart Disease cases can be identified before hospital discharge. Early detection and intervention by a pediatric cardiologist resulting from this testing can greatly improve the quality of life for these infants.
For more information about Critical Congenital Heart Disease and pulse oximetry testing, please visit the Kentucky Newborn Screening website: http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/mch/ecd/newbornscreening.htm .