Importance of heart testing for newborns

WICHITA, Kansas — The American Heart Association is working with the Kansas Department of Health, pushing to make a simple newborn screening a requirement. It’s a four dollar test that parents and medical professionals say could help save lives.

“He was born on January 9th of 2002 and he was undiagnosed at birth,” said Danielle Klatt, the mother of a son born with a congenital heart defect.

Klatt says the first two days of her second son’s life were very normal but on the third day things took a turn.

“He was in multi-system organ failure at that point. His kidneys were shutting down as well as his heart and his lungs,” said Klatt.

Their son had a congenital heart defect and a quick four dollar test could have caught the problem sooner. It’s called a pulse oximetry test.

“It’s a simple and non-invasive test that has a light source and a sensor so you can place it on a finger or with a newborn we place it on the wrist,” said Jan Kabler, a clinical nurse specialist at Via Christi. “What we’re screening for is to see if there is a congenital heart disease but it could mean other things too.”

In the state of Kansas, the test isn’t mandatory but the Kansas Department of Health and Environment say they are looking into the issue.

“We’re partnering with the AHA, March of Dimes and others to challenge the current way of doing things, and any changes in policy or operations should only come after adequate assessment and education with our stakeholders,” according to the KDHE in a statement released.

The KDHE says that many hospitals are doing the tests even though it’s not required.

“I really think a pulse oximeter used to diagnose this would have made a world of difference,” said Klatt.

Unless it is required though, some parents are worried that others might not know to ask for it.

“12 years ago I would not have known, but now I tell all my pregnant friends that are about to have a baby, if you could just slide that pulse ox on their finger that would be great,” said Klatt. “Could be potentially life saving.”

Both Wesley Medical Center and Via Christi automatically screen all newborns but some of the smaller hospitals around the state do not.

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