Heart Screening May Save Infants' Lives

Critical congenital heart disease testing in infants may save lives

(RxWiki News) Newborn testing for critical congenital heart disease may save lives, according to a new study.

When the authors of this study analyzed nearly 27 million US births, they discovered a link between infant screening at birth and a significant decline in deaths due to critical congenital heart disease (CCHD). These researchers studied data from the National Center for Health Statistics from 2007 to 2013.

CCHD is a condition marked by abnormalities in a baby’s heart structure. Without screening, some babies born with a congenital heart defect appear healthy at first and are sent home before the problem is detected. These babies are then at risk for problems that often require emergency care.

According to the research team, implementation of pulse oximetry testing at birth (screening for oxygen levels in the blood and pulse rate) was tied to a 33.4 percent decline in infant deaths from CCHD. Low oxygen levels in the blood may be an indication of CCHD.

With proper screening and detection, babies with CCHD can be evaluated by a heart doctor and receive specialized care that can help prevent death or disability early in life. Treatment may include medications and surgery.

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

Forty-seven states and Washington, DC, now have mandatory newborn screening policies in place. Talk to your health care provider to learn more about CCHD.

This study was published in JAMA.

Information on funding sources and potential conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

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Review Date: 
December 12, 2017