NASHVILLE — Pulse oximetry testing is working to save lives according to a recent USA Today article citing a Des Moines, Iowa case. The simple test, which is slated to become part of Tennessee’s infant screening process as a result of legislation passed earlier this year, helped save newborn Gracelynn Marie Holschlag’s life.
The pulse oximetry screening showed Gracelynn’s oxygen level was 83 percent, well below the normal 95 percent. The infant was promptly referred to a pediatric cardiologist even though her physical appearance looked normal.
“This is exactly why we passed this legislation in Tennessee,” said Senator Doug Overbey, R-Maryville, who sponsored the bill. “Pulse oximetry is a very simple test that can save the life of an infant by detecting serious heart defects before they cause permanent harm to a child or death.”
Public Chapter 556 requires the state’s Genetic Advisory Committee to develop a program to screen newborns for critical cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCCHD) using pulse oximetry on or before January 1, 2013. It 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 or the palm of the hand.
According to Gracelynn’s cardiologist, her condition which involved a narrowing of the infant’s aorta was a “storm waiting to happen,” saying that if she had crashed at home it could have been deadly. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has also recommended that newborns receive pulse oximetry testing and nine states, including Tennessee, have now passed legislation. The test only costs about $4.
“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,” added Senator Overbey. “I am very pleased that Tennessee will now have pulse oximetry screening available to all newborns.”