One year later: congenital heart defect screenings - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

One year later: congenital heart defect screenings

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EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - This time last year, a new rule went in effect in Indiana that requires screenings for congenital heart defects in all babies born at birthing facilities.

When that law started in 2012, 14 News spoke with a pediatric cardiologist from St. Mary's. Now we're checking back with her for an update. What have doctors learned about these screenings in one year? Are they still considered life saving?

Pulse ox tests are non-invasive screenings done on newborns after 24 hours of age.

"The intent is to pick up any type of congenital heart disease that might not otherwise be caught that might require intervention before an infant goes home," said pediatric cardiologist Deepa Kumbar. "All it is, they put a little sensor around the baby's hand and then around their foot, either on their toe or on their heel, and it detects using light how much oxygen is actually in the blood and oxygen levels in the blood."

In one year's time, Dr. Kumbar says she's had four or five patients fail the test but one only who was a true positive. A true positive means that baby had a congenital heart defect and needed treatment quickly.

Doctors say when a baby is born with a heart defect, it isn't always physically obvious.

The test helps doctors know if an infant needs to be treated.

"Sometimes an infant looks very well and these things are not easily picked up so the infant, if they were to go home with some of these lesions, they can have life threatening events happen," said Dr. Kumbar.

Dr. Kumbar says it can be very dangerous if a child's heart problem goes unrecognized.

"There have been infants who have gone home and had heart disease be undetected, then come back in carcinogenic shock and not make it," said Dr. Kumbar.

Dr. Kumbar says the screenings will not detect all heart problems. Parents should still know what to look for.

"Difficulty breathing, breathing too fast, looking lethargic, they may look modeled in color, just not acting right and those are the signs to bring them in for anything," states Dr. Kumbar.

The screenings still aren't required in all states.

Dr. Kumbar says they're still learning how effective the test is.

She says in Indiana within the last year, there have been 30-40 babies who've failed the test but the database to tell how many of those were due to congenital heart defects is not yet available.

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