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Pulse Ox Congenital Heart Disease Screening

Pulse oximetry test

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect. Approximately eight per every 1,000 babies are born with a form of CHD and about 280 outwardly healthy babies are discharged from hospitals every year with unrecognized CHD.

In the first 24 hours of life, a pulse oximetry (pulse ox) test can quickly and painlessly determine whether a baby has critical congenital heart disease and possibly save his or her life. Screening for more serious forms of CHD is now a part of the recommended uniform screening panel and supported by the Health and Human Services, American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, American Academy of Pediatrics and March of Dimes.

Children’s National Health System created the Congenital Heart Disease Screening Program to help to detect critical CHD while newborns are in the nursery. It can easily be part of the standard of care at any hospital. However, not all hospitals use the pulse oximetry test, which results in hundreds of babies going home with unrecognized critical congenital heart disease every year.

The promotes early detection through the use of pulse oximetry following 24 hours of age and prior to discharge from the newborn nursery. The program values the importance of the screening of all healthy newborns for congenital heart disease.

All babies with critical congenital heart disease are detected before leaving the newborn nursery. Pulse oximetry is part of routine testing performed on all infants that are not already thought to have CHD. It is recommended that pulse oximetry screening be done in conjunction with other standard-of-care newborn screening that requires the baby be at least 24 hours of age, such as PKU screening.

All healthy babies that are not thought to have CHD should be screened. If the pulse oximetry reading  is greater than or equal to 95 percent the infant will pass screening. If the pulse oximetry reading is less than 95 percent the baby's doctor may order an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) to check for CHD.

Contact Us

If you are an expectant mom or a clinician interested in the CHDSP, please contact Lisa Hom at 202-476-5063, and

Xiomara's Story

xiomara teaser 2

When Xiomara's mother Elena was 20 weeks pregnant, her ultrasound uncovered something that didn’t look right. Elena was referred to Children’s National Health System to meet with Mary Donofrio, MD, in the Fetal Heart Program who flagged a few potential heart issues and continued to monitor Xiomara throughout the remainder of the pregnancy.

Read More of Xiomara's Story