Des Moines, January 25, 2013 – Most new parents probably don’t realize that a simple test done before they head home with their new baby could be a life-saver.
The pulse oximetry screening offered to Iowa newborns at about 65% of the state’s hospitals detects the oxygen level in a baby’s blood. Too low of levels are a strong indicator that the baby, who often seems completely healthy otherwise, has a serious heart defect. When pulse ox screenings aren’t given to every baby, there is a chance that babies with unhealthy hearts are sent home and not given the life-saving treatment they desperately need.
“John acted like a totally healthy newborn – his APGAR score was a 9” says Gina Ten Pas of Pleasant Hill, who brought her sons, 18-month old John and 5-year old Caleb to the American Heart Association’s annual Legislative Breakfast. “Without early detection, we could have been sent home. That would have been devastating because his heart defect is very severe and has already required two open-heart surgeries, with a third to come soon.”
Parents like Ten Pas gathered at the Capitol Thursday to ask Iowa lawmakers to safeguard all Iowa newborns by enacting a law that all Iowa hospitals test each new baby with a pulse ox screen. The test is non-invasive, takes 5 minutes and costs between $1 and $10, which is typically covered by insurance.
“This is a no-brainer, it should be an easy piece of legislation to pass because it’s about saving the lives of our youngest and most vulnerable Iowans,” says Stacy Frelund, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association. “Our only opposition comes from groups who say this can be done voluntarily by hospitals, that we don’t need a law. But the National Department of Health and Human Services made the recommendation that this test be done on all babies nearly a year and a half ago and we still don’t see the level of participation we would expect in Iowa hospitals, despite the low cost and fact that all hospitals already have a pulse ox machine. Legislation is the best way to ensure that all Iowa babies get the same chance at a healthy and long life.”
“Babies whose heart defects are found early have good chances of survival. Treatment has come a long way and we see babies with defects considered terminal just ten or twenty years ago going on to be healthy toddlers and children,” says Dr. Benjamin Reinking, Pediatric Cardiologist at the University of Iowa.