Pulse Oximetry Testing Can Save Lives

February 9, 2010 at 11:51 pm 1 comment

In preparing to write this entry, I began my research as I normally do, by googling.  I have blogged about pulse-ox testing before, and again feel discouraged after my research.  The facts are this:

8-10 in every 1000 babies born will have a congenital heart defect (the numbers concerning this fact are all slightly different.  In fact, my state governor’s office was told by the State Health Department that the “numbers were slightly inflated”.  I have used the more conservative number so as not to upset anyone.  Either way, nearly 1% of all live births are affected by a heart defect). (cited from WebMd Heart Disease Guide)

Approximately 36,000 babies are born each year with a CHD.  (American Heart Association Website)

Less than 10% of CHD’s are diagnosed before birth.

This year approximately 4,000 babies will not live to see their first birthday because of Congenital Heart Defects. (Children’s Heart Foundation)

Most people are unaware that Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) are the most common birth defect in America, affecting approximately one in one hundred, or 40,000 newborns each year. CHDs are responsible for one third of all birth defect-related deaths and sadly 20 percent of children who make it through birth will not survive past their first birthday. Although a child is born every 15 minutes with a CHD, research continues to be grossly under-funded in America. Of every dollar the government spends on medical funding, only a fraction of a penny is directed toward congenital heart defect research. (Children’s Heart Foundation)

The facts go on, the statistics continue.  Pulse Oximetry testing has been around for some time now, and saves lives of children with heart defects.  The test is non-invasive and simple.  A little monitor with a red laser on each side is pressed over the toe or finger of the baby, the oxygen levels are then tested in the blood stream.  Research has been done and continues to be done on this method of detecting birth defects.  Many, many researchers, scientists, and hospitals advocate for the routine and mandated screening of CHD’s of all newborns.  So, why is it not done??????  Most hospitals actually have this equipment already.  Why has the health department not made this part of the screening of newborns.

Here is where the semantics come in.  Yes, semantics.  Word games, really.  I could give you all the reasons opposing the testing.  The tests so far have not been conducted on a wide enough sampling of patients.  The tests produce false positives, resulting in unnecessary, expensive tests.  The research findings are provocative but inconclusive.  Every year these semantics continue, babies die unnecessarily.  Babies who could be given a chance at life by being treated for their undiagnosed CHD.

Many tests are already mandated, including PKU, and others and yet, CHD’s affect more children and more babies die from CHD’s than any other birth defect than the conditions already being screened.  Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not downplaying the serious nature of other birth defects.  Every birth defect is a tragedy.  So why not test for the ones that can be tested for?  Some in the medical field are concerned about the added stress to parents of newborns if the  test registers a false positive and the added costs of expensive Echocardiograms.

So for now, pulse ox testing is not mandatory.  Newborns are not routinely screened.  But, you can ask for it.  You can make sure that within 24 hours of life, your baby is screened for an undiagnosed heart defect.  Chances are about 1 in 100 that your baby won’t have CHD, but if you are the 1 in 100, early diagnoses and treatment helps produce a positive outlook for years to come.  Ask for a pulse ox screening before you leave the hospital.

Contact your legislators and ask them to introduce a law that will mandate pulse ox testing.  Visit this link to my last post on pulse ox testing for more facts and the harmful ways some in the medical community undermine the importance of this kind of legislation.  Visit this link to hear the tragic yet courageous story of Kristine and her beautiful baby Cora, who had an undiagnosed CHD.  Help her spread awareness and fight the killer which robbed her of her precious baby.

Help save babies like Cora and thousands of others by getting involved in the campaign to mandate pulse oximetry newborn screening.


Entry filed under: CHD Awareness, CHD Legislation, CHD Research, Pulse Ox Testing. Tags: , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Kristine Brite  |  February 17, 2010 at 1:00 am

    So well put. Thank you for this. This will be a huge aid in helping me. Thank you, thank you.


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