New Texas Law Mandates Screening Newborns For Heart Defects

A new law requires Texas newborns to get heart screenings


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A newborn screening of pulse oximetry. Photo courtesy of Masimo.

More than 14,000 children are born in Texas each year with some form of heart defect. Now, every newborn will be screened for congenital heart disease using pulse oximetry.

Courtney DeBower with the American Heart Association says the test is simple, and involves a little gadget that is put on a patient’s finger to measure heartbeat and oxygen levels.

“So if the baby has a low oxygen saturation level, it’ll alert us that he or she may possibly have critical congenital heart defects, and additional tests should then be performed,” said DeBower. 
Last year, lawmakers approved a change in state law, mandating hospitals test newborns for abnormalities that might otherwise take longer to detect.

“Before this was passed, hospitals could choose to use pulse oximetry, but it wasn’t done routinely, unless they thought that the infant may have a heart defect, because their parent did, or something else told them that maybe there was a heart defect. This way, all newborns have a chance to be screened,” said DeBower. 

Tiffany Galligan’s 6 year old son Blake was born with a heart defect. She says pulse oximetry saved his life.

“Today he’s an amazing kid, and all newborns in Texas will now be screened.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart defects account for nearly 30-percent of infant deaths in the United States.

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