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Welcome to the family!
You are expecting a little one soon. The nursery is set up and the walls are painted blue or pink – or yellow, if you want to be surprised. The hospital bag is packed and the nightlight is plugged in just for good measure. It is good to be prepared, since the time after the birth of your baby can be a whirlwind filled with family and friends, talking to doctors and nurses, and signing lots of papers! But in all the excitement you may want to take a minute and make sure another light is turned on: the pulse-ox light.
Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, recently approved the addition of Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD) to the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP) of newborn screening disorders. CCHD is a set of heart conditions found in about 7 to 9 out of every 1,000 births in the U.S. and accounts for 3% of all infant mortality during the first year of life.
The addition of CCHD to the RUSP also adds a new level of testing to the newborn screening procedure. While the traditional screen includes a heel prick using a few drops of blood from the baby’s heel, and a hearing test done with electrical devices that measure the response of the baby’s ears and brain to sound, the CCHD test is done using light. Yes, that’s right, light. The test is known as a pulse oximetry test, or pulse-ox for short. A probe, consisting of a light source and a sensor, is attached to the baby’s hand or foot, which then measures the level of oxygen carried in the blood. It is slightly warm to the touch, but the procedure is otherwise pain-free. If the screen shows that there are low levels of oxygen in the blood, this tells doctors that there may be a structural problem with the heart. Further tests are then needed to assess the actual cause of the low levels of oxygen. The quick and painless pulse-ox screen can save the lives of thousands of babies. New Jersey, Maryland, and recently Indiana have all already passed laws requiring pulse-ox testing to be included in the newborn screening procedure and many more states are said to be following suit.
So while you are welcoming your baby into your family, we are welcoming the pulse-ox test, and CCHD prevention and treatment into ours. For more information on CCHD and pulse-ox, go to our CCHD condition page.
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