Baby Heart Screening

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What Is Newborn Heart Screening?

Posted by : | July 13, 2012

Pulse ox probe on a newborn.

A newborn is screened with pulse oximetry. Photo thanks to Masimo.

About one percent of babies are born with a congenital heart defect (CHD), or malformation of the heart that develops before the baby is born. CHD is the most common birth defect, however sometimes these defects can go undetected into adulthood.

Newborn heart defect screening (pulse oximetry screening) is a way to screen for these defects in a newborn. It’s important to remember that a passed screening does not mean your baby does not have a heart issue and a failed screening does not mean your baby does have a heart defect. Your doctor will order more testing.

Pulse oximetry is a basic medical tool sometimes called the fifth vital taker. It won’t hurt your baby and is fast, cheap and doesn’t mean you have to be separated from your baby. Talk to your doctor about doing the screening while you are present, or even when you’re holding your baby.

To screen for heart defects, your baby’s nurse or doctor will wrap a pulse oximeter probe around your baby’s foot and hand, to measure the amount of oxygen in your baby’s blood. A low reading can mean a heart defect is present. Sometimes readings will be low due to the equipment used, your baby’s position or another issue.

Not all states and hospitals are routinely screening. While the screening is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association and March of Dimes, you might have to request to have your baby’s heart checked. 

 

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