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New National Recommendations for Newborn Screening to Test for Congenital Heart Disease

August 22, 2011
Children's National cardiologist helps develop strategy for implementing efficient, cost-effective screening using pulse oximetry

Washington, DC — A federal advisory committee, including pediatric cardiologist Gerard Martin, MD, from Children's National , has issued a national recommendation for adding a newborn screening test for congenital heart disease. Preprints of the proposal, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology Foundation, and the American Heart Association, are available online and will appear in the November 2011 issue of Pediatrics.

This recommendation is part of the ongoing advocacy and research efforts at Children's National Health System that have examined newborn congenital heart disease screening. Earlier this year, Dr. Martin spearheaded research and advocacy efforts that led to the passage of Maryland legislation mandating that a plan for screening implementation be prepared by the Maryland Department of Health. Led by Dr. Martin, a team at Children's National developed a tool kit to help hospitals implement a screening program.

“Through our collaboration with hospitals that have implemented pulse oximetry screening in their newborn nurseries, we know this test can identify some babies previously missed with critical congenital heart defects with minimal impact on routine care” said Gerard Martin, MD, co-director of Children's National Heart Institute at Children's National. “We believe this simple, inexpensive test should become standard of care for newborn babies to help detect potential heart problems and save lives of those at risk of being missed.”

The federal advisory committee reviewed scientific evidence and laid out a proposal for a standard approach to screening and follow-up and identified key issues for further research and evaluation. The report is intended to act as a guideline for individual states deciding whether to add pulse oximetry to their panel of newborn screening tests.

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect among newborns, affecting approximately eight of 1,000 babies born, and accounts for more deaths in the first year of life than any other defect. Early detection of serious forms of the disease will improve health outcomes for those babies. Pulse oximetry is a simple, inexpensive, and non-invasive test that quickly and painlessly tests babies for serious congenital heart disease.

Contact: Emily Dammeyer or Emily Hartman, Public Relations, 202-476-4500.

About Children's National Health System

Children’s National Health System, based in Washington, D.C., has served the nation’s children since 1870. Children’s National is one of the nation’s Top 5 pediatric hospitals and, for a second straight year, is ranked No. 1 in newborn care, as well as ranked in all specialties evaluated by U.S. News & World Report. It has been designated two times as a Magnet® hospital, a designation given to hospitals that demonstrate the highest standards of nursing and patient care delivery. This pediatric academic health system offers expert care through a convenient, community-based primary care network and specialty outpatient centers in the D.C. Metropolitan area, including the Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia. Home to the Children’s Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Children’s National is the seventh-highest NIH-funded pediatric institution in the nation. Children’s National is recognized for its expertise and innovation in pediatric care and as a strong voice for children through advocacy at the local, regional and national levels. 

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