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Health Authority "“ Abu Dhabi and Children's National Medical Center Lead the World in Detecting Critical Infant Heart Defects

Abu Dhabi – February 8, 2011: Today, the Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD), the regulative body of the healthcare sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, together with Children’s National Medical Center announced the rollout of a newborn screening program in Abu Dhabi for critical cyanotic congenital heart disease (CCCHD), the most serious form of congenital heart disease (CHD). Made possible by a long-standing relationship between HAAD and Children’s Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, the program aims to increase knowledge and skills in pulse oximetry, a non-invasive and cost-effective screening procedure that detects CCCHD in newborns. By using pulse oximetry, HAAD estimates that 10 Abu Dhabi children each year will be diagnosed with CCCHD and will receive treatment early enough to more effectively manage the condition.

“This particular test is highly recommended in order to detect critical congenital heart diseases before the newborn is discharged from the maternity hospital. It will be fully integrated into the neonatal screening program, which began implementation in 2010,” said Dr. Shereena Al Mazrouie, Senior Officer of Family and School Health at HAAD.

In late January, a team from the Children’s National visited all regions of Abu Dhabi to meet with representatives from their twenty-three maternity hospitals and to present the scientific background and methodology of the pulse oximetry screening test. As the program progresses, the Sheikh Zayed Institute and Children’s National will continue to share best practices and provide ongoing support. This pulse oximetry program is the first in a series of initiatives where HAAD and Children’s National will collaborate to identify improvements in pediatric care that will benefit children worldwide.

Failing to detect CCCHD while in the nursery may lead to critical events such as cardiogenic shock and death. Early diagnosis of CCCHD can improve the prognosis of affected newborns, decrease the mortality and morbidity rate, lower risk for brain injury and prevent developmental delay. Research shows that children who are diagnosed with CCCHD later in life tend to require more hospital care, greater resources, and have worse health outcomes long term. The HAAD estimates that three or four out of 1,000 newborns will obtain a positive pulse oximetry test which will require further investigation, and that about one in 1,000 of these will then require some form of pediatric surgery.

“Diagnosing and treating CCCHD in its early stages is key. That’s why it is so important to have pulse oximetry screening available to all newborns,” said Dr. Gerard Martin, co-director of Children’s National Heart Institute at Children’s National, who conducted the trainings in Abu Dhabi. “Our partnership with HAAD enables us to engage in the mutual knowledge sharing and education needed to bring technologies like pulse oximetry to children and families worldwide, and ultimately, save lives.”

About Pulse Oximetry
Pulse oximetry is a simple and painless procedure that can improve detection of CCCHD before the infant is discharged from the nursery. When used in combination with prenatal ultrasounds and postnatal physical examinations, detection rate for CCCHD improved to more than 95 percent, compared to a rate of 60 to 70 percent using traditional approaches. The pulse oximetry procedure involves attaching two small light transmitters (red and infrared) along with a sensor to a newborn’s hand and foot to measure the child’s pulse rate and the percent of oxygen saturation of hemoglobin in the blood. A pulse oximetry saturation of less than 95 percent may indicate the presence of CCCHD, and the child will be referred to a physician or nurse practitioner for further follow up.

Invented in the 1970’s, pulse oximetry is widely used in pediatrics and adult medicine to monitor pulse rate and oxygen saturation of patients who are undergoing invasive treatments that require sedation, including surgery. Following research in Europe and the United States, pulse oximetry is now ready for this new application in newborn nurseries. Talks are ongoing to add pulse oximetry for CCCHD to the newborn screening panel implemented across the United States.

About Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD):
The Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD) is the regulative body of the Healthcare Sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and ensures excellence in Healthcare for the community by monitoring the health status of the population. HAAD defines the strategy for the health system, monitors and analyses the health status of the population and performance of the system. In addition HAAD shapes the regulatory framework for the health system, inspects against regulations, enforces standards, and encourages adoption of world – class best practices and performance targets by all healthcare service providers in the Emirate. HAAD also drives programs to increase awareness and adoption of healthy living standards among the residents of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in addition to regulating scope of services, premiums and reimbursement rates of the health system in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

For more information on HAAD: Gretchen Watson, PR Specialist, Ph: 02 419 3367, email [email protected].

About the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation
Made possible by a $150 million gift from the Government of Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children’s National Medical Center combines unparalleled innovation and team science to revolutionize four key areas: pain medicine, immunology, bioengineering, and personalized medicine. While other institutions are pursuing new developments in these areas, the Institute is the first to bring these areas together in an effort to best inform research and clinical practice with a focus on pediatric surgery. For more information, please visit

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Contact: Jennifer Stinebiser, 202-476-4500

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