Infant Heart Screenings at Birth Now Mandatory in Two States

With a recent influx of birth injuries and life-threatening defects, both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania have created laws this summer that requires infant heart screenings to occur shortly after birth.

According to reports, Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin, signed an emergency decision on June 30 that requires hospitals in the state to perform a congenital heart defect screening on all newborn infants prior to discharge. The procedure is non-invasive and easy, consisting of a simple heart screening that spots the birth defect 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 the H.B. 420, a law that mandates all infants undergo  pulse oximetry testing before being discharged from hospitals. The Pennsylvania Department of Health had already mandated congenital heart defect screenings for newborns, yet there was a lapse in the universal screening that the state’s legislature covered with the new law. Pulse oximetry testing helps determine if a baby’s oxygen saturation is healthy. Although the congenital heart defect testing was passed, Pennsylvania is now waiting the governor’s signature before pulse oximetry testing goes into affect. 

The infant heart screenings have proven to be effective in detecting other serious health issues, including respiratory distress, sepsis, pneumonia, and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).

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

“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,” said the CEO of the Newborn Foundation Coalition, Annamarie Saarinen.

Several physicians have also expressed their approvals, 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.