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Early Testing of Newborns Could Save Lives and Dollars

PHOTO: Meyer says the heart defect test is quick and easy and should be part of every new baby's screening.
March 7. 2013
PHOTO: Meyer says the heart defect test is quick and easy and should be part of every new baby's screening.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - South Dakota lawmakers have passed a bill that would test all newborn babies for possible heart defects.

Congenital birth defects often lead to heart problems, said Chrissy Meyer, spokeswoman for the American Heart Association of South Dakota.

"One of the easiest ways that we can screen for that is with a very simple, noninvasive test called pulse oximetry screening, or pulse ox," she said. "Basically, it's a test that costs literally dollars, like $2 to $4, and can screen newborns right away and identify problems."

While the test is fairly cheap, Meyer said, it can save a lot of health-care dollars in the long run.

"One study has calculated that the saving in health-care costs from the prevention of one case of complication, not being able to identify this problem early enough, it actually exceeds the cost of screening 2,000 newborns," Meyer said.

The test is quick and easy, she said, and should be part of every new baby's screening.

"It's just a sensor that's placed right on the baby's foot," she said, "and it just measures the oxygen level in the blood. It's noninvasive; it takes minutes to perform."

The bill requires all hospitals and clinics that provide birth services to do the pulse ox test.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD