State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Delaware/Montgomery, who recently introduced legislation that would mandate all newborn babies be tested for congenital heart disease, today announced the release of a report endorsing that plan. The bill, Senate Bill 1202, would add heart screening to the list of tests performed for birth defects and conditions under the 1965 Newborn Child Testing Act.
The report, approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, advocated for the use of “safe, effective and efficient screening” using what is known as pulse oximetry monitoring to measure the level of oxygen saturation in the blood of newborns that may otherwise appear healthy.
“This report and its endorsement by leading pediatric and cardiology experts affirm my belief that all newborns should be tested for congenital heart disease, a test that is not widely practiced currently in the United States,” Leach said. “This is a simple, safe and noninvasive procedure that can save the lives of thousands of children and ease the minds of all parents, and it would be in the best interests of all families to put this technology to good use.”
The report added that one out of every 120 babies is born with congenital heart disease, which can go undetected at birth and cause serious – and sometimes fatal – complications. Congenital heart disease causes the most fatalities of any known birth defects but can be treated if detected early. To conduct the test, pulse oximetry would painlessly emit light through the right hand and a foot of a newborn which would then be measured to calculate blood oxygen levels. It has been recommended that testing occur after the baby is 24 hours old in order to prevent a false positive result.
Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a medical correspondent for the Today Show, stated in a recent report that congenital heart disease screenings can be performed quickly and inexpensively. “It costs about one dollar and takes about 45 seconds for a trained clinician to perform the test,” she said.
Mary Mannix, whose child the legislation is named after, said, “This is a patient safety issue for newborns. Heart babies only need one hole to fall through before we lose them, and James died because of unsafe care. Every newborn in Pennsylvania is worth the one dollar and 45 seconds it takes to perform this test.”
Prior to the release of these recommendations, the state of New Jersey decided to begin screening all newborns before discharge by the end of this month. Leach’s legislation currently has ten cosponsors.