Infant Heart Screenings at Birth Now Mandatory in Two States

An influx of birth injuries and life-threatening birth defects has caused Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to create laws requiring infant heart screenings to occur shortly after birth.

Infant Heart Screening Laws

According to reports, Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin, signed an emergency decision on June 30, 2014 requiring hospitals to perform a congenital heart defect screening on all newborns prior to discharge.  The procedure is non-invasive and easy.  It consists of a simple heart screening that spots birth defects which can otherwise be life-threatening if undetected.  Unlike regular heart diseases, congenital heart defects require surgery within a month in order to save the baby’s life.

Following Wisconsin, the state of Pennsylvania passed H.B. 420, a law that mandates all infants undergo pulse oximetry testing before being discharged.  The Pennsylvania Department of Health already mandated congenital heart defect screenings for newborns.  Pulse oximetry testing helps determine if a baby’s oxygen saturation is healthy.  

Why Heart Defect Screening is So Important

Infant heart screenings are effective in detecting other serious health issues as well. Screenings can detect conditions like:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Sepsis
  • Pneumonia
  • Persistent pulmonary hypertension among newborns (PPHN)

Several agencies and organizations have commended both states for stepping forward in an attempt to help prevent future birth defects.  The states have the support of the March of Dimes, American Heart Association and the Newborn Foundation Coalition.

CEO of the Newborn Foundation Coalition, Annamarie Sarrinen says,

“It’s been our goal from day one to ensure babies are diagnosed early so they can get the care they need, regardless of circumstance or geography. We commend the leadership in both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for taking these important steps to help ensure the survival and improved care of all newborns.  And we encourage the handful of remaining states to follow suit.”

Several physicians have also expressed their approval, stating that a simple test has the potential to save lives.

“I have friends who’ve told me they’ve had children at beautiful hospitals with fantastic fish tanks in the lobby’s in very beautiful places, and their children were pronounced perfect, and they went home and had a cardiac arrests, and found themselves in another hospital where they needed heart surgery. This test, this simple test will prevent stories like that,” said Dr. Dennis Costakos of the Mayo Health Clinic.

It is the hope of these two states, and likely others, that simple tests could help reduce injuries. Living with a birth injury or defect is challenging.  Newborns deserve every chance to begin their lives as healthy as possible.

Sam Uribe

Written By Sam Uribe

Sam Uribe is a researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.