Mary Bridge Children's Hospital

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Childhood Heart Conditions

Newborn Screening for Heart Defects

A screening study to identify heart defects in newborns is being conducted at MultiCare’s Tacoma General Hospital, Women & Newborn Center.

This study, by the Mary Bridge Pediatric Heart Center, will evaluate if pulse oximetry should be used to detect congenital heart defects (CHDs) in newborns.

Pulse oximetry monitoring uses a light source and sensor to measure oxygen in the blood.

  1. A sensor is wrapped around the baby’s foot.
  2. Light passing through the foot measures the amount of oxygen in the blood.
  3. The test is quick (3-5 minutes), painless, and free of charge to parents. Pulse oximetry monitoring should detect most heart defects.


Infant (up to age 1)

Parents should be alert to the following symptoms in infancy:

  • Tires easily during feeding (falls asleep before feeding finishes)
  • Sweating around the head, especially during feeding
  • Fast breathing when at rest or sleeping
  • Pale or bluish skin color
  • Poor weight gain
  • Sleeps a lot, not playful or curious for any length of time
  • Puffy face, hands and/or feet
  • Often irritable, difficult to console

Children (ages 1-17)

Some children with CHDs may not have any symptoms until later in childhood. Things to look for include:

  • Gets out of breath during play (crouches or squats to catch breath)
  • Difficulty "keeping up" with playmates
  • Tires easily/sleeps a lot
  • Change in color during active play or sports (looks pale or has a bluish tint around mouth and nose)
  • Frequent colds and respiratory illnesses
  • Slow growth and weight gain/poor appetite
  • Complains of chest pain and/or heart pounding

Source: The Congenital Heart Information Network