Early detection of congenital heart condition signed into law

NASHVILLE, Tenn, April 17, 2012 – Governor Bill Haslam has signed into law legislation sponsored by Senator Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) and Representative Ryan Haynes (R-Knoxville) to help detect serious heart defects in newborns before they cause permanent harm to the child or death.

Public Chapter 556 requires the state’s Genetic Advisory Committee to develop a program to screen newborns for critical cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCCHD) using pulse oximetry.

“This particular test is highly recommended in order to easily detect critical congenital heart defects where diagnosis and treatment in its early stages is key,” said Senator Overbey. “That's why it is so important to have pulse oximetry screening available to all newborns.”

Cyanotic heart disease is a congenital heart defect, present at birth, which results in low blood oxygen levels causing the skin to look blue.

Congenital heart disease is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects. Research shows that children who are diagnosed with CCCHD later in life tend to require more hospital care, greater resources, and have worse long-term health outcomes.

Pulse oximetry is a non-evasive method which uses a light emitter with red and infrared LEDs that shines through a reasonably translucent site with good blood flow. It is usually attached to the infant’s foots of the palm of the hand. The procedure allows medical professionals to evaluate any potential problems with CCCHD.

“I'm pleased and know that parents will be excited that this important legislation is now law,” Representative Haynes added. “I have no doubt pulse oximetry testing will save lives.”

The Department of Health (DOH) will promulgate rules related to screening for CCCHD, revise existing screening forms, establish a new system for receipt of screening results, develop and maintain a list of approved screening providers, and develop public
health nursing protocols.

The goal is to provide screening in hospitals and other birthing facilities prior to discharge. Newborns who do not pass the screening would then be referred to the appropriate medical professionals for follow-up care.


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