Thursday, January 8, 2009

Newborn Screening Test Could Save Lives

Research paper: Impact of pulse oximetry screening on the detection of duct dependent congenital heart disease: A Swedish prospective screening study in 39,821 newborns

The British Medical Journal

Routine screening of blood oxygen levels before discharge from hospital improves the detection of life threatening congenital heart disease in newborns and may save lives, according to a study published on today.

The low false positive rate of pulse oximetry screening and the reduced need for treatment because of a timely diagnosis also makes this a cost effective intervention, say the authors.

Pulse oximetry screening has been suggested for early detection of congenital heart disease, but its effectiveness is unclear.

The authors found that in apparently well babies ready for discharge a combination of clinical examination and pulse oximetry screening had a detection rate of 82.8% for duct-dependent heart disease. The detection rate of physical examination alone was 62.5%. Pulse oximetry also had a substantially lower false positive rate (0.17%) compared to physical examination alone (1.90%).

However, some babies had been detected before discharge examination, meaning that the introduction of pulse oximetry screening in West Götaland improved the total detection of duct dependent heart disease to 92%. This was significantly higher than the 72% detection rate in other regions not using the screening technique. Interestingly, improved detection was achieved by a maximum of just five minutes of extra nursing time per baby.

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