New law requires all hospitals in Wisconsin to screen babies for potential heart defects

CREATED Jul 2, 2014

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MADISON - An emergency order from Governor Walker goes into effect Thursday, requiring hospitals in Wisconsin to administer pulse oximetry tests to all babies born in Wisconsin.    

"It doesn't puncture their skin, it doesn't hurt them, it's done very quickly," said Nicole Hudzinski, government relations director for the American Heart Association.  
Pulse oximeters measure the level of oxygen in a baby's blood by using a probe that wraps around the baby's finger.  They can detect potentially life-threatening heart defects.
The tests are not only quick and painless, they also don't cost much.
"It's extremely inexpensive.  Our national office estimates it costs around four dollars per newborn."   
It's not clear how many babies could be saved by the tests, but there has been some research done on the topic.
"I believe it was between 2002 and 2006, there were nine infants that either passed away within the first week due to undiagnosed critical congenital heart disease or they ended up back in the emergency room in extremely critical condition," said Hudzinski.
A number of hospitals already do the testing on a regular basis; the emergency order ensures all hospitals perform the tests.