Share This! Tweet This! Recommend Us! Print Page
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Google
Youtube
LinkedIn
RSS
< >

The facts on detecting heart defects in babies

Posted on Jun 5, 2014 ( comments)
baby-heart-defects
In 2008, in partnership with the MultiCare Mary Bridge Pediatric Heart Center, MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital's Family Birth Center began using pulse oximetry technology to screen newborns for heart defects. 

The screening, part of a research study that eventually led to a state health care award and a federal recommendation, has now become the standard of care throughout MultiCare Health System. 

"This test is something that Tacoma General  was an early advocate for and is now gaining acceptance throughout the country," says Jonathan Chen, MD, Chief of the Seattle Children's and Mary Bridge Children's Regional Cardiac Surgery Program.

Find out more about heart defects and the importance of screening with these true-false beliefs.

HEART DEFECTS ARE GENETIC.

They occur in approximately 1 out of every 100 births. There are two kinds: congenital heart defects and critical congenital heart disease (CCHD). These affect the heart’s shape and how it works. 

CCHD is actually a group of several severe congenital heart defects.  They will need treatment within the first few hours, days or months of life.
 
Undetected heart defects are a leading cause of infant deaths. But screening is available throughout MultiCare Health System. Ask your doctor for more information.



THERE WILL BE SIGNS.

Not necessarily. Many congenital heart defects cause few or no signs and symptoms. And they can't  always be detected with a stethoscope. 

"An otherwise normal baby with no obvious signs can have a defect that goes undetected, then go home and suddenly have an event," says Nan Gillette, RN, MSN, Clinical Director of Perinatal Services, who oversees the birth center at Tacoma General. 

"Sometimes, this delay in diagnosis can make an otherwise simple operation to ¬ x the defect considerably more difficult," Dr. Chen says. "Or even require more than one procedure."



TESTING IS COMPLICATED.
 
"It's a quick, noninvasive test," says Gillette. "A soft sensor is wrapped around the baby's foot." 

The probe then uses light (passing through the skin and tissue) to measure oxygen and blood levels, which may be evidence of a heart defect.

"It's estimated that less than 1 percent will need further evaluation," says Gillette.





A LOW LEVEL OF OXYGEN MEANS A HEART PROBLEM.

Not always. It may just mean further investigation is needed. If your child does have a low oxygen level (hypoxemia), a thorough physical exam will be done and an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) will be ordered. If a heart defect is found, parents will meet with a pediatric cardiologist to talk about treatment options. 

Most congenital heart defects can be corrected or improved with medications, procedures and/or surgery.





Undetected heart defects are a leading cause of infant deaths. But screening is available throughout MultiCare Health System. Ask your doctor for more information.
Posted in: Kids' Health | Research | Tacoma

About The Author

maura hallam Maura Hallam
Maura is our senior content editor. She writes extensively about health and wellness topics, from fitness and nutrition to medical insurance. You can reach her at maura.hallam@multicare.org.

More stories by this author
View all articles

Comments