Congential Heart Defects: Children’s Heart Foundation · CHD Coalition · NJ Dept. Health Newborn Screening/Genetic Svcs.
Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) occur when a baby’s heart or blood vessels do not form properly during the pregnancy. Heart defects are the most common birth defect. Most babies are born with normal hearts, but one in approximately 110 are found to have some form of heart defect.
CHDs can range from mild to severe to critical. Approximately 25% of babies with heart defects have a critical congenital heart defect (CCHD), requiring prompt diagnosis and treatment for the best outcome. Since 2011, birthing hospitals in New Jersey have been required to screen newborns for CCHD before being discharge. Serious problems can be prevented or addressed if CCHD is found shortly after birth.
The screening is done as a simple bedside test using pulse oximetry. A small sensor is placed on a baby’s right hand and one foot to measure the oxygen saturation level in the blood. Infants who do not pass the screening receive further testing to determine if there is a problem. Those who are found to have CCHD can start receiving care right away. However, it is possible for a baby to pass the screening test and still have a CCHD.
Some babies may not show signs or symptoms until later. Signs of heart problems in infants include sweating around the head during feeding, slow growth, poor weight gain, fussiness, fast breathing, and bluish or pale skin color. Parents and caregivers are advised to seek prompt medical attention for infants who shows these signs and other changes in the way the baby looks or acts.