BALTIMORE (August 29, 2012) – On September 1, 2012, Maryland will begin newborn screening for Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD). There are many forms of congenital heart disease, but CCHD is any heart defect present at birth that can potentially cause serious illness or death in the first weeks of life if not diagnosed and treated.
CCHD screening was added in 2011 to the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel, the list of items recommended by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to be included in newborn screening. Currently, New Jersey and Indiana are screening, with several more states planning to begin in the near future.
CCHD can often be identified prenatally by ultrasound, but at least 40 percent of cases are still missed. Newborn screening involves the use of pulse oximetry, a painless test that involves wrapping one sensor around a baby’s hand and one around their foot to measure the saturation of oxygen in their blood. The sensor uses light absorption to measure oxygen saturation, and the test takes only a few minutes.
Approximately 140 infants are born in Maryland each year with CCHD. Their heart condition is often diagnosed before birth or due to symptoms after birth. However, there are infants who appear well at birth, but become critically ill over the first days and weeks of life as their circulation adapts to life outside the womb.
“Safeguarding the health of Maryland infants is a top priority for our state, and this simple screening will help accomplish this goal,” said Frances Phillips, Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services.
Newborn screening will not identify all cases of CCHD, but it will improve the detection rate when combined with a thorough physical examination. The screening will also identify other causes of low oxygen saturation in the blood, such as infections or lung disease. All Maryland birthing hospitals will arrange for immediate follow-up evaluation of an infant with abnormal screening results. As with any screening test, some tests could result in false-positives, with reassuring findings on follow-up.
Educational webinars have been created for hospital and birthing center staff to provide recommendations and guidelines for screening. Please visit the Office for Genetics and People with Special Health Care Needs CCHD screening website for more provider or parent information at http://fha.dhmh.maryland.gov/genetics/SitePages/CCHDScreeningProgram.aspx. You can also contact the office by phone at 410-767-6730, or access our resource line at 1-800-638-8864 for information about health care resources.