Pulse oximetry is viable screening tool for congenital heart disease
Pulse oximetry, a noninvasive method allowing the monitoring of the oxygenation of a patient's hemoglobin, can be used as a screening tool to detect critical congenital heart disease (CHD) in infants, and is more readily available than echocardiography, the current gold standard for critical CHD diagnosis, according to research presented Oct. 14, at the American Academy of Pediatrics' National Conference and Exhibition in Boston.

In September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services added pulse oximetry to the list of core screening standards; however, no research has been conducted that looks at the availability of these devices, or their frequency of use.

Researchers surveyed nurse managers and administrators at 88 of the 99 Wisconsin hospitals that routinely deliver newborns. All responding hospitals had pulse oximetry available in the nursery, of which 28.4 percent (representing one-third of all newborns in Wisconsin) routinely used this device to screen for critical CHD.

In contrast, same-day echocardiography was available at only 37.5 percent of the responding hospitals. More than 26 percent of births occurred in a facility where same-day neonatal echocardiography was not available, with the average distance to a higher level care facility of choice being 53.1 miles.

"There is a large body of literature on pulse oximetry as a screening tool for critical CHD from Europe; however, there is very little population-based information on this type of screening in the healthcare systems of the U.S.," the study’s lead author Daniel J. Beissel, MD, pediatric cardiologist at University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, said in a statement.

"Although the use of pulse oximetry is a relatively new tool in screening for critical CHD, its use is expanding rapidly," said Beissel. "The implementation of pulse oximetry is likely to expand further as more and more states pass legislation requiring this type of screening in all newborns."