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Georgia Lawmakers Consider Study on Newborn Screening for Heart Defects

September 4, 2013

Originally published April 2, 2012

In Georgia, law requires that newborns undergo a screening for a number of genetic and metabolic disorders prior to discharge from a birthing facility.  And hearing screening is also conducted routinely for most babies born in Georgia.

This legislative session, Georgia lawmakers will consider House Bill 745, a bill sponsored by State Representative Andy Welch and co-signed by Representative Matt Ramsey to launch a pilot study to determine whether special screening should be required of all newborns for the detection of critical congenital heart disease (CCHD).    
 
Babies born with CCHD can appear healthy at first and can be discharged before serious health complications arise. Babies with CCHD can potentially be diagnosed before discharge from their birth facility by receiving a pulse oximetry screen.  Pulse oximetry, or pulse ox, is a simple and non- invasive means of determining the amount of oxygen in the red blood cells.  A low saturation level may indicate the presence of CCHD.  
 
The pulse ox screen is performed at the baby's bedside by placing a disposable probe on an infant's right hand and either foot, which allows the monitor to measure the percent  of oxygen saturated in the red blood cells that leaves the heart and is circulating through the baby's body. 

The new bill proposes a study to determine whether pulse ox screening should be implemented as a standard test for newborn infants in this state to aid in detecting CCHDs. The study will include the review of available data and research findings on this issue to determine whether pulse ox screening should be performed as a standard test in conjunction with other current screening methods for CCHDs. 
 
Babies with a CCHD are at significant risk for death or disability if CCHD is not diagnosed and treated soon after birth.  An estimated 280 newborns are sent home each year with unrecognized CCHDs, and the trend to include pulse ox screening to all newborns in nurseries across the U.S. is growing.  
 
In 2010, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary's Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children recommended screening of newborns for Critical Congenital Heart Disease using pulse ox screening.