Newborn Screening for Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHD)
Congenital Heart Defects occur when a baby’s heart or blood vessels do not form properly during the pregnancy. Heart defects are the most common birth defect. Most babies are born with normal hearts, but approximately 9/1,000 are found to have some form of heart defect. There are many types of heart defects ranging from mild to severe or critical. Approximately 25% of babies with heart defects have a critical condition. A critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) requires prompt diagnosis and treatment for the best outcome. Babies with undetected critical congenital heart defects are at risk for death or significant disability.
Screening for critical heart defects is important because newborns with heart problems can look healthy. Screening can identify some infants with CCHD before they get sick or show signs of heart problems. The screening is done as a simple bedside test using pulse oximetry. A small sensor is usually placed on a baby’s right hand and one foot to measure the oxygen saturation level in the blood. Infants who do not pass the screening can then receive further testing to determine if there is a problem. Those who are found to have CCHD can start receiving care right away.
It is possible for a baby to pass the screening test and still have a CCHD. Not all defects are picked up on the pulse oximetry screening. Some babies may not show signs or symptoms until later. Signs of heart problems in infants include sweating around the head during feeding, slow growth, poor weight gain, irritability, fast breathing, and bluish or pale skin color.
For questions about CCHD screening in New Jersey contact:
Lorraine Freed Garg, MD, MPH
Newborn Screening and Genetic Services Program
Special Child Health and Early Intervention Services
New Jersey Department of Health
P.O. Box 364, 6th floor
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0364
Department of Health P. O. Box 360,
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360 Our Locations