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Newborns to be screened for heart defects

8th May 2014

Public Health England has announced that it plans to introduce a new screening test to improve the diagnosis rates of heart defects in newborn babies.

babyward1Around 3,500 babies are born with congenital heart defects each year. Sometimes they are not picked up until the baby has been at home for a few months and becomes seriously ill.

New solution

The new screening test for babies will be trialled in six hospital trusts. The test is called pulse oximetry; it measures the oxygen levels in the baby's blood, which can indicate congenital problems.

The test is a quick, easy and non-invasive procedure that can be carried out within the first 72 hours of the baby's life. It involves placing a clip on the baby's finger or toe and shining red light through the skin.

Dr Anne Mackie, director of programmes for the National Screening Committee (responsible for advising the government on such matters), said the pilot was an exciting prospect. "Pulse oximetry has the potential to detect more babies with congenital heart defects to save lives and make sure babies get the care they need before they become seriously ill."

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