Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a problem in the structure of the heart or its main blood vessels, and is most common with a birth defect. Some forms of CHD are serious and can cause the baby to become sick soon after birth.
In September 2011, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department approved the addition of screening for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) to each state’s newborn screening panel. In October of 2012, the Family Birth Center at Boone County Hospital (BCH) began offering this screening. BCH is one of the 30 percent of Iowa hospitals that currently administer the test.
Before the baby goes home, Birth Center staff will check for a sound in the baby’s heart called a heart murmur, abnormal heart rate, breathing or blood pressure, and will do a pulse oximetry test to check for low oxygen levels. A pulse oximetry test is simple and painless, and measures how much oxygen is in the blood. A sticky-strip, like a band-aid, is placed on the baby’s hand and foot. A small red light on the strip measures the baby’s oxygen level. It will not hurt the baby. Low oxygen can be a sign of CHD. If your baby has CHD, the pulse oximetry test may tell the nurses before a newborn becomes sick. Results of the screening are reviewed with the mother before the baby leaves the hospital.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 7,200 children are born with critical congenital heart defects each year. An estimated 200 of those are discharged without the defects even being detected.
“The CCHD screen is a painless test that has the potential to discover a problem that could save a newborns life,” says Dena Sytsma, Director of the Family Birth Center.
Pictured: Shannon Hill, Birth Center nurse, places a sticky strip on a newborns foot to test the baby’s oxygen level