White bill would provide congenital heart defects test for newborns
CECIL, March. 5 – State Rep. Jesse White, D- Washington/Allegheny/Beaver, said today he has reintroduced legislation that would require hospitals to test newborns for congenital heart defects within 24 hours of birth.
Under House Bill 809, hospitals would be required to perform a pulse oximetry screening on newborn babies, which is a simple and painless test that places sensors on the baby’s skin to determine the amount of oxygen in the blood and measure the pulse rate. Although some hospitals already perform pulse oximetry newborn screenings, it is not required under current law. Meanwhile, an estimated 300 infants with an undiagnosed CHD are discharged each year from hospitals in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, congenital heart defects account for nearly 24 percent of infant deaths. In addition, about 12 percent of babies born each year have one of seven critical congenital heart defects. Newborns who are not screened for CHDs are at greater risk of death or lifelong disabilities.
“Pulse oximetry testing can help prevent either possibility by making sure newborns have the appropriate amount of oxygen in their bloodstream to detect CHDs as well as other heart defects before babies begin to show signs of a heart condition,” White said. “It’s a simple and low-cost procedure estimated at under $10, which is a bargain when you consider the lower cost of catching a heart defect early as compared to the cost and related problems of having to fix it later.
“This issue was brought to my attention by a constituent who had his newborn daughter rushed to the hospital because of a heart defect, which would have likely been detected had this test been done at birth,” White said. “We should take this opportunity to provide an easy and commonsense solution to a scary problem regarding the heart health of our precious little ones.”
The Pennsylvania Newborn Screening and Follow-Up Technical Advisory Committee last year recommended that screening for critical congenital cyanotic heart disease using the best available technology be added to Pennsylvania’s state-mandated newborn screening and follow-up panels. On March 1, the state began collecting monthly aggregate CHD data from birthing hospitals, centers and midwives.
The legislation was previously introduced in the 2011-2012 legislative session as H.B. 2263.
State Rep. Jesse White