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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: April 18, 2013 10:43 AM
From: Representative Karen Boback
To: All House members
Subject: Pulse Oximetry Screening of Newborns for Congenital Heart Defects
In the near future, I will be introducing “free-standing” legislation that will require a pulse oximetry screening for each newborn baby born in a hospital or freestanding birthing center in Pennsylvania. Pulse oximetry testing will ensure that every newborn receives a simple, non-invasive blood oxygen test that will help to determine if the child has an undiagnosed Critical Congenital Heart Defect (CCHD). Currently, congenital heart defects are a leading birth defect in the United States and the number one killer of infants with birth defects.

Congenital heart defects are structural abnormalities of the heart that are present at birth, and can range in severity from a simple hole or murmur to severe malformations. Some CCHDs can cause severe and life-threatening symptoms that require intervention within the first few days of life. They are the No. 1 killer of infants with birth defects.

The screening is a non-invasive test that estimates the percentage of hemoglobin in blood that is saturated with oxygen. The test is as simple as a diaper change and can be bundled with other testing required at birth. When performed on a newborn in the delivery center, it is effective at detecting life-threatening defects that would otherwise go undetected by current screening methods.

The cost to conduct these screenings is roughly $1to $4 per test. One study calculated that the savings in healthcare costs from the prevention of one case of complications of circulatory collapse resulting from an undiagnosed CCHD may exceed the cost of screening two thousand newborns. Current methods for detecting CCHDs only identify less than half of all cases and critical heart defect cases are often missed during routine clinical exams. This legislation would require that the newborn pulse oximetry screening be considered a routine exam performed prior to a newborn’s discharge from a birthing facility.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this important life-saving legislation.


Introduced as HB1420