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UIHC offers new heart disease screening process for newborns

BY ELISE DILGER | FEBRUARY 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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Hundreds of infant heart patients could be saved each year thanks to a new technology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

The UIHC is the first facility in the state to offer a new heart disease screening on newborns.

Jeff Seger, a member of the committee that started the screening, praised the potential of these screenings this week.

"One out of every 100 newborn babies are affected with heart disease," he said. "This test has the potential to save hundreds of babies each year."

The Department of Heath and Human Services recommended hospitals start the procedure — pulse oximetry screenings — on newborn babies a year ago. The test measures how much oxygen is in the blood by wrapping a sticky strip, like a bandage, around the finger and the foot of the baby. Then, a light test is performed to determine the amount of oxygen in the blood of the finger and foot of the baby.

"These screenings are designed to detect one of the seven forms of critical congenital forms of heart disease," Seger said.

To pass the test, the difference in oxygen levels of the hand and foot have to be less than 3 percent. If the baby fails, the hospital waits one hour before performing the test again. The test will be repeated three times, and if the baby fails all the tests, a cardiologist is called to perform an ultrasound of the heart on the newborn to detect what is wrong with the heart.

The screening is being performed at the University of Wisconsin hospitals along with hospitals in New Jersey. Hospitals in Des Moines will start offering the test soon.

UIHC nurse Michelle Turner said she and the rest of the nursing staff are very excited this screening has started at the UI.

"The nurses are excited because they have personal connections to heart disease in newborns," she said. "I know I do — my son had a heart condition when he was first born."

She brought her son home from the hospital with a clean bill of health and nine days later was brought back to the hospital because he was breathing irregularly, Turner said. It was then determined he had a heart condition. Turner's son survived, but some babies who deal with heart issues aren't so lucky.

This screening is funded by a grant from the Iowa Department of Public Health, which pays for patient education, staff education, and supplies in order to perform theses screenings. So far, no charges need to be made to the newborn's family hospital bills.

The pulse oximetry screening is just an addition to the other tests performed on a newborn 24 hours after birth. A newborn screening is performed via blood to test for developmental, genetic, and metabolic disorders. Also, newborns receive a hearing and jaundice test 24 hours after birth.


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