Congenital heart disease tests should be carried out on newborn babies, leaders of a new study have urged.
Researchers from the Queen Mary, University of London and the University of Birmingham found that a non-invasive test called pulse oximetry can screen for the potentially fatal condition at birth.
The study, published online in The Lancet, found that by placing a sensor on a newborn baby’s foot, the amount of oxygen circulating in its bloodstream can be measured, which would help doctors determine if there was a previously undetected heart defect.
The research found that pulse oximetry was most effective when babies were screened around 24 hours after birth and those leading the study claim that the test could easily be combined with checks for other, less common types of birth defects that are currently carried out on newborns.
If left untreated congenital heart disease can be fatal. The condition affects nearly 1% of all babies born in the UK each year, which is the equivalent of around 5,000.
- Thangaratinam S, et al. Pulse oximetry screening for critical congenital heart defects in asymptomatic newborn babies: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet 2012; Advance online publication