Naturally, every parent tries to imagine what their new little baby girl
or boy will look like and who he or she will favor more—will he
have blue eyes like her dad or will she have dark, curly hair like her
mom? While all harmless curiosity, more begging is the question “Will
my baby be healthy?” because truly that’s really what matters most.
Critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) account for 30 percent of infant
deaths due to birth defects. There are seven specific heart defects that
can now be detected using a simple, non-invasive tool known as Pulse Oximetry Screen.
Last year, Patty Sill, RN at CaroMont’s Birthplace attended a conference
in Washington, D.C. Moved by the information she learned, Sill returned
to work more passionate than ever to screen newborns using the Pulse screen.
Beginning January 14, 2013 to February 14, 2013, Sill led a Quality Improvement
Study to test the validity of the screen and provided staff education
and training. Now standard procedure all babies born at Caromont are tested
and have results within minutes.
New parents Kris and Danielle Race gave birth to their first child last
month at CRMC. Both are CaroMont employees. Caedmon Race was born a few
days earlier than his expected due date.
“As new parents, Kris and I were nervous about having a baby and
all the unexpected surprises that can come with it,” said Danielle
Race. “But, when the nurse explained the new screen for newborns,
it provided additional peace knowing my baby was going to be well cared
Just 48 hours after Caedmon was born his nurse took him to the nursery
for his pulse screen. Minus the inconvenience of being interrupted from
his nap, Caedmon fared well. And, the best news is that he tested negative
for all seven heart defects.
“We were so relieved that Caedmon’s results came back negative,”
said Kris Race. “Now, all we have to focus on is getting him home,
and of course, that Duke wins since he’s going to have all these
pictures of him in his Duke PJs to look back on when he gets older,”
laughed Kris Race.
What does the Pulse Oximetry screen for?
The bedside device is used to test for seven specific heart defects by
screening a newborn’s blood oxygen level and pulse rate which can
indicate CCHD when levels fall below the normal rate. The painless, non-invasive
screen uses sensors that are placed on the baby’s skin—typically
on the heel and hand where the skin is thinnest. Pulse ox is found to
be more accurate at detecting such heart conditions than a standard clinical
examination, and should be used as routine assessment in all newborns
before they leave the hospital. More often than not CCHD cases are missed
during routine clinical exams performed prior to a newborn’s discharge
from a birthing facility.
A screening is done when a baby is 24 to 48 hours of age. A positive test
result (out of range) does not give a diagnosis. It only means a problem
may exist and further evaluation is needed.
“With a negative screen your doctor can say with confidence that
your baby is highly unlikely to have a critical birth defect of the heart,”
said Kevin Coppage, MD, Pediatrix Medical Group Neonatologist and Medical
Director at the Birthplace.”
In the event of a positive screen a diagnostic test will be conducted,
typically an echocardiogram or ultrasound picture of the heart, to determine
if an actual heart defect exists. If a CCHD is detected, highly specialized
treatment under the lead of a cardiologist can prevent further complications
and death early on in a baby’s life.
Nine states have passed legislation requiring CCHD screening for newborns,
including, New Jersey, Indiana, Maryland, Tennessee, West Virginia, California,
New Hampshire, Virginia, and Connecticut. According to the American Heart
Association’s website, is estimated that 8.9% of newborns in the
U.S. are currently being screened for CCHD using pulse ox, but numbers
are expected to increase into the double digits in 2013.