Congenital Heart Disease Screening Prevents Infant Deaths

Pulse oximetry found to reduce infant death from congenital heart disease by 33%.

The CDC recently reported that screening for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) can significantly reduce the number of pediatric patients dying from the condition.

Approximately 1 in 4 newborns with heart defects is diagnosed with CCHD, which requires surgery within the first year of life, according to the CDC. Without screening for the condition, seemingly healthy newborns will be sent home and not receive the proper care.

Infant deaths from CCHD were observed to drop more than 33% in 8 states that used pulse oximetry to screen patients, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pulse oximetry is a simple test that determines oxygen levels in the blood and pulse rates of newborns. This test can be useful for screening because low oxygen levels in the blood is a symptom of CCHD.

The report indicates that nationwide screening for CCHD could save at least 120 babies each year, according to the authors. This study is the first to analyze how state policies affect CCHD screening.

The authors discovered that states that required hospitals to use pulse oximetry for CCHD screening in newborns had the most substantial reduction in infant deaths compared with states without similar policies, according to the study.

The researchers noted such policies that were voluntary or not implemented were not linked to reductions in infant death rates.

Currently, 47 states and Washington, DC, have mandatory CCHD screening policies in place. Additionally, California requires hospitals to offer screenings, according to the CDC.

These findings confirm the need for CCHD screening and the benefits of adding pulse oximetry tests to current screening methods, according to the study.

“More families are able to celebrate special milestones in a child’s life thanks to the early identification and treatment of heart defects,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, director, CDC. “Screening newborns for critical congenital heart disease in every state, tribe, and territory will save lives and help babies thrive.”