Recommended Screening for Newborns

The Department of Health and Human Services recently recommended that all newborns be screened for congenital heart disease as part of their routine newborn assessment.

Congenital heart diseases causes up to 3% of all infant deaths in the first year of life. Congenital heart defects affect about 1% of live births—one quarter of which are considered critical congenital heart defects, which require intervention in the first weeks or months of life. The screening test is painless and is done during the 24-48 hour period of life. 

The test is simple. A small sensor is placed on the right hand and either foot. A one minute oxygen saturation measurement is taken. The baby has a negative test if the oxygen saturation is greater than 95% and there no more than 3% difference between hand and foot. Babies have three chances to pass the screening test. A baby with a positive result (fails on three measurements) would be required to have follow-up studies, which may include a newborn echo-cardiogram.

Meriter Hospital has been doing this screening since 2007 based on a study done at Meriter in collaboration with UW-Madison.

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