A Federal Government Advisory Committee is urging the use of this test. Two Governors (Maryland and New Jersey) recently signed laws mandating the use of this test. Clearly, the hearts of newborns are front of mind.
These laws require that a Pulse Ox test be performed on all newborns. The test measures the level of oxygen in the blood. Low levels can indicate problems with the heart and/or lungs.
Why is this important? The test is cheap and non-invasive. It leads to the detection of congenital (inherited) heart defects – the most common birth defect. The reality is that the Pulse Ox has been widely used for many years and is a standard of care in many major hospitals. However, these laws guarantee its use in ALL hospitals.
Simon’s Fund is very pleased with this development. The laws will save lives. They will raise awareness about the prevalence and prevention of heart conditions in children. They create a precedence of utilizing inexpensive and non-invasive methods to screen for heart conditions in children, which is core to Simon’s Fund’s mission.
However, these laws don’t replace our efforts. We are providing ECG exams to all newborns at the Corrine Santerian Newborn Clinic because we believe this will detect other structural and electrical conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest and death. We are providing heart screenings for students around the Philadelphia area because far too many of them are dropping dead.
Our screenings, which involve an ECG and Echocardiogram, do not look for the same conditions as the Pulse Ox. Furthermore, many of the conditions that are detected through our screenings may not be present at birth (the Pulse Ox is done 24 hours after birth).
We need laws and initiatives like this. We need compassionate legislators and Governors. We need nonprofits to screen the hearts of students. There is plenty of room under this umbrella. There are plenty of ways to check hearts and save lives.