New push to get mandatory pulse oximetry screening for newborns in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - As the American Heart Association (AHA) celebrates American Heart Month this February, leaders are working to educate parents about a screening test for newborns.

The AHA would like to see mandatory pulse oximetry, or pulse ox, screenings. A pulse ox test detects how much oxygen is in the newborn's blood. A lack of oxygen is often a sign that the baby has a congenital heart defect that can be deadly if it's not immediately diagnosed.

Kelly Munz, a Lee's Summit woman, is grateful her daughter had the test four years ago. The pulse ox test revealed that Chloe Munz had a congenital heart defect.

Doctors were able to correct the heart problem through surgery, and Chloe is now a healthy 4-year-old who competes in gymnastics.

Dr. Bill Drake, a cardiologist at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., explains that the pulse ox test is not new. 

"It has been around for years, but we're just now discovering that it is useful in detecting heart defects in newborns," Dr. Drake explained.

A sensor on a wire is taped onto the newborn's wrist or ankles. The wire is connected to a computer which shows the oxygen level in the blood. Anything less than 95 percent oxygen level is cause for testing the baby for congenital heart defects.

Pulse ox testing is routinely conduced at Children's Mercy and most other major hospitals in the metro. But at some hospitals, parents have to request the screening. 

"It's a $2 test and it could save the baby's life," Dr. Drake added.

If a newborn leaves the hospital with an undetected congenital heart defect, they could go into shock and possibly die.

Munz has become an outspoken advocate encouraging other parents to ask questions and make sure their newborn has had the pulse ox screening.

"Congenital heart defects are the number one heart defects," Munz explained.

"I want to help other families who will face this problem in the future," she added.

Munz is on a campaign to get a new law mandating pulse ox screenings for newborns in Missouri. There is a measure in the Missouri State House of Representatives called Choe's Law.


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