New state law requires heart defects screening for infants

Test performed 24 hours after birth


SAN ANTONIO - A new state law is going into effect that will require babies to get a pulse oximetry done before they leave the hospital.

The non-invasive test is a screening for critical congenital heart disease, which affects more than 7,000 infants in the U.S. each year and makes up the leading cause of death of infants under 1 year old.

On Wednesday, Caleb De Los Santos -- just a day old -- got the screening.

His mother, Lluvia, said the test makes her feel secure about the health of her baby, eliminating any uncertainties of her baby having a problem with his heart.

The test is performed 24 hours after a baby is born and measures the level of oxygen in the baby's blood by using sensor wraps around the hand and foot.

Low levels of oxygen could signal critical congenital heart disease, but early detection can help.

"The minimal costs that you put in to screening every baby will help you pick up that one baby that has the heart defect," said Dr. Alice Gong, professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center & Neonatologist at University Health System. "And get that baby treatment before the baby gets sick."

However, even with the screening, Gong said parents should still watch for signs of the disease.

"We tell the parents that if you take the baby home and the baby starts to turn blue or gray or is not feeding well, you should get the back to be reevaluated because not all the conditions are going to show up," said Gong.

Gong said doctors at University Hospital have been administering the screening for the last two years, under the Texas Pulse Oximetry Project, or TxPOP.

However, under the new state law, all hospitals will be required to do this test, starting Sept. 1.

For a list of recent stories Stephanie Serna has done, click here.


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