Thiele Announces Assembly Passage of Legislation to Test Newborns for Critical Heart Defects

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) today announced he helped pass legislation that would require testing of newborns for critical congenital heart defects through pulse oximetry screening (A.2316-B). The screenings are non-invasive, painless, and take only one minute to perform, Thiele noted.

“We have the technology to quickly and painlessly test a newborn for potentially life-threatening congenital heart defects,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be using this test on every baby before being sent home from the hospital. We know this test can find problems before tragedy hits.”

For newborns, pulse oximetry screening involves taping a small sensor to their foot while the sensor beams red light through the foot to measure how much oxygen is in the blood. This screening is effective at detecting some critical congenital heart defects that may otherwise go undetected by current screening methods like prenatal ultrasounds and clinical examinations – which identify less than half of all defects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a pulse oximetry screening costs less than $15 per newborn.

Congenital heart defects account for nearly 30 percent of infant deaths due to birth defects. In the United States, about 18 of every 10,000 babies born each year – or about 7,200 babies – have critical congenital heart defects. It has been estimated that each year about 300 babies are discharged from the hospital without their critical congenital heart defects being diagnosed. These babies often seem healthy at first, but soon require emergency care to save their lives.

“We can potentially save lives without high costs and without pain for the baby,” Thiele said. “It breaks my heart to think we could be taking better care of babies and are not doing so. This screening needs to be standard practice in every hospital.”