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For Release:
July 15, 2013

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.

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New Jersey’s First In Nation Statewide Screening Program Detects Critical Congenital Heart Defects and Other Conditions in First Nine Months

Potentially life-threatening heart defects and other serious conditions were detected in newborns during the first nine months of a Christie Administration law requiring newborns to be screened using pulse oximetry to improve early detection of critical congenital heart defects, according to a study published today in Pediatrics.

Today's publication in Pediatrics is the first in the nation to evaluate the implementation of the pulse oximetry screening to detect Critical Congenital Heart Defects (CCHDs) in newborns. New Jersey was the first state to implement the screening law in August 2011 using pulse oximetry to improve early detection of CCHDs. The law requires all licensed birthing facilities to perform a pulse oximetry screening a minimum of 24 hours after birth, but before newborn leaves the hospital.

Of 73,000 newborns eligible to screened in the first nine months, 99% were screened. CCHDs were detected in three infants whose conditions may not have been identified had the new law not been in place. Another 17 infants were identified with other conditions including pneumonia, sepsis and other echocardiogram findings.

"New Jersey's evaluation of the implementation of the first statewide screening program produced meaningful results and insights that will assist other states and programs as they embark on their own implementation and evaluations," said New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd.

Pulse oximetry is a simple, non-invasive screening that measures the level of oxygen in a baby's blood. One sign of CCHD may be low levels of oxygen in the blood.

In September 2011, a month after the New Jersey law took effect, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services recommended that all states incorporate screening for CCHDs. At least 35 states have passed or introduced legislation to mandate this screening. Immediately after New Jersey's CCHD screening became law, the New Jersey Department of Health convened a working group to develop a screening algorithm. It recommended screening in both the right hand and either foot between 24 and 48 hours of life or when medically appropriate in a special care nursery or neonatal intensive care unit.

The authors of the study included researchers, clinicians and public health experts from the New Jersey Department of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Cohen Children's Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and Duke University.

The Pediatrics article can be found at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/doi/10.1542/peds.2013-0269

Last Reviewed: 7/15/2013