We Can Save Lives if Pulse Ox is Required in MA!


Last week the Joint Committee of Public Health heard legislation that would require newborn pulse oximetry screening for congenital heart defects (CHD). We were fortunate to have a mom, Jodi whose son Alex was diagnosed with CHD after a nurse saw that his nail beds were blue and tested him pulse ox share her story. Jodi and Alex's story showed the Committee a real life example of the importance of Pulse Ox!

Congenital heart defects (CHD) are the most common birth defects in the U.S. and the leading killer of infants with birth defects. Congenital cardiovascular defects, also known as congenital heart defects (CHD) take a significant financial and emotional toll on families in the state and across the country. But pulse oximetry screening, or pulse ox, can help identify newborns at risk for heart defects and potentially save their lives. Pulse ox is a non-invasive, inexpensive test conducted on newborns before they leave the hospital, in conjunction with current CHD screening methods. It greatly improves the effectiveness and likelihood of detecting critical or possibly life-threatening heart defects that might otherwise go undetected. In fact, new research suggests wider use of pulse ox screening could help identify more than 90 percent of heart defects. Not only could this test save lives, but it could also cut hospital costs, which in past years have totaled more than $2.5 billion for all individuals with CHD.

CHD are a real problem, and pulse ox is needed. They are the most common birth defects in the U.S. and the leading killer of infants with birth defects. Congenital heart disease affects approximately eight of every 1,000 live births, and one quarter of these children will require surgery or catheter intervention in the first year of life.  Nearly one in three infants who dies from a birth defect has a heart defect. In 2007, 189,000 life years were lost before age 55 due to deaths from heart defects existing at birth – nearly equivalent to the life-years lost from leukemia, prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease combined. It has been estimated that about 300 infants with an unrecognized critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) are discharged each year from newborn nurseries in the United States. These babies are at risk for having serious complications within the first few days or weeks of life and often require emergency care.

But Pulse Ox is not required in Massachusetts. In September 2011, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recommended that pulse ox be added to the standard procedures following a baby’s birth. To achieve this goal, efforts are underway across the country to enact pulse ox screening policies in every state that will allow babies with heart defects to live longer and fuller lives. More than 13 states have already passed laws requiring newborns to have pulse ox screenings prior to being discharged from the hospital. In New Jersey, just hours after their law took effect; a newborn’s life was saved. We look forward to Massachusetts being next!




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