(NASHVILLE, TN), May 18, 2011 – Legislation to help detect serious heart defects in newborns before they cause permanent harm to the child or death has passed the State Senate. Senate Bill 60, sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), requires the state’s Genetic Advisory Committee to develop a program to screen newborns for critical cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCCHD) using pulse oximetry.
“This particular test is highly recommended in order to easily detect critical congenital heart defects where diagnosis and treatment in its early stages is key,” said Senator Overbey. “That’s why it is so important to have pulse oximetry screening available to all newborns.”
Cyanotic heart disease is a congenital heart defect, present at birth, which results in low blood oxygen levels causing the skin to look blue. Congenital heart disease is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects. Research shows that children who are diagnosed with CCCHD later in life tend to require more hospital care, greater resources, and have worse long-term health outcomes.
Pulse oximetry is a non-evasive method which uses a light emitter with red and infrared LEDs that shines through a reasonably translucent site with good blood flow. It is usually attached to the infant’s foots of the palm of the hand. The procedure allows medical professionals to evaluate any potential problems with CCCHD.
The Department of Health (DOH) will promulgate rules related to screening for
CCCHD, revise existing screening forms, establish a new system for receipt of screening
results, develop and maintain a list of approved screening providers, and develop public
health nursing protocols. The goal is to provide screening in hospitals and other birthing facilities prior to discharge. Newborns who do not pass the screening would then be referred to the appropriate medical professionals for follow-up care.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Senator Overbey recounted how he was a blue baby, having been born with Tetrology of Fallot. He told his colleagues how he was discharged from the hospital following birth without detection of the heart defect. He asked his Senate colleagues to join him to assure that no parents will face the same trauma as his parents of finding their baby in the crib having turned blue and then requiring being rushed to the hospital for life-saving treatment.
“I’m pleased and know that parents will be pleased that this important legislation was unanimously approved on the floor of the Senate,” Senator Overbey added. “I have no doubt pulse oximetry testing will save lives.”
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration there.