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Pulse Oximetry Testing in Newborns Endorsed by Secretary Sebelius

September 23, 2011

Washington, DC—United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has adopted the Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children’s recommendation to add screening for critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) to the Uniform Screening Panel. The endorsement recognizes the ongoing effort by pediatric cardiologists, nurses, and child health advocates, including Gerard Martin, MD, senior vice president of the Center for Heart, Lung and Kidney Disease and co-director of the Children’s National Heart Institute at Children’s National Medical Center.

In 2009, physicians and staff at Children’s National and Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring initiated a research study examining implementation of pulse oximetry screening for CCHD in a community nursery. Findings from this work led to the development of an educational toolkit, which Dr. Martin and his team are using to help other hospitals locally, nationally, and internationally implement screening in their nurseries.

In addition, staff from Children’s National also collaborated with the Maryland General Assembly to enact legislation that will help implement congenital heart disease screening for all newborns in the state. Approximately 3 of every 1,000 babies are born with critical congenital heart disease.

Dr. Martin spearheaded the implementation research, which was funded by the Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum Family Foundation. He and nursing coordinator, Elizabeth Bradshaw, MSN, RN, CPN, also sat on a federal advisory panel that developed implementation recommendations in January of this year. A white paper outlining outcomes from this meeting was endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology Foundation and the American Heart Association, and is now available online. The endorsed white paper will appear in the November 2011 issue of Pediatrics.

“We are extremely excited to receive word of Secretary Sebelius’s support of pulse ox testing,” said Dr. Martin. “We have learned that this screening can be easily implemented into nurseries and will improve the detection of critical congenital heart disease. This painless and inexpensive test serves as an additional tool for health care providers to detect low oxygen levels that may not be detected by the human eye. The announcement from Secretary Sebelius will save lives.”

Contact: Susan Muma or Emily Dammeyer, Public Relations,  202-476-4500

About Children's National Health System

Children’s National Health System, based in Washington, D.C., has served the nation’s children since 1870. Children’s National is one of the nation’s Top 5 pediatric hospitals and, for a second straight year, is ranked No. 1 in newborn care, as well as ranked in all specialties evaluated by U.S. News & World Report. It has been designated two times as a Magnet® hospital, a designation given to hospitals that demonstrate the highest standards of nursing and patient care delivery. This pediatric academic health system offers expert care through a convenient, community-based primary care network and specialty outpatient centers in the D.C. Metropolitan area, including the Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia. Home to the Children’s Research Institute and the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, Children’s National is the seventh-highest NIH-funded pediatric institution in the nation. Children’s National is recognized for its expertise and innovation in pediatric care and as a strong voice for children through advocacy at the local, regional and national levels. 

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