Sanghavi calls for mandatory testing to detect newborn heart defects

Pediatric cardiologist says pulse ox screening saves lives on WBUR’s Cognoscenti

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

June 12, 2013

Pediatric cardiologist Darshak Sanghavi, MD, calls for legislation to make pulse oximetry screening mandatory for newborns in an essay for WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog. The inexpensive and noninvasive test measures oxygen levels in the blood with a foot sensor to detect serious heart defects that can otherwise be missed in newborns.

While other states have passed legislation requiring pulse ox screening at birth, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health decided earlier this year the screening shouldn’t be mandatory, reasoning that doctors and hospitals would do the right thing on their own. But Dr. Sanghavi, associate professor of pediatrics and chief of pediatric cardiology at UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center, notes that only one-quarter of Massachusetts birthing facilities were performing the screening in 2012, despite an earlier federal recommendation to do so.

“As a pediatric cardiologist, I have seen first-hand seemingly healthy babies go home, only to become critically ill a few hours or days later,” he wrote. “Many of these cases are entirely preventable.”

Read the full essay: A Simple Test. Newborn Lives Saved. What's The Holdup?