Mercy Hospital Joins with American Heart Association to Celebrate Effective Date of Pulse-Ox Newborn Screening Law

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Februay 3, 2014

New State Law Requires Newborns to be Screened for Congenital Heart Defects

Mercy Hospital joined with the American Heart Association on January 27 to celebrate the effective date of a new state law requiring birthing facilities at hospitals and clinics to screen newborns for congenital heart defects through pulse-oximetry testing,  also known as “pulse-ox.” Congenital heart defects are the leading cause of infant death due to birth defects, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Subsequently, this additional screening has the potential to save more newborn lives.

Participating in a brief ceremony and reception at the hospital to recognize this new legislation were hospital leaders from the Family BirthPlace at Mercy Hospital and the Catholic Health Heart Center, as well as American Heart Associate representatives and their volunteer advocates who helped gather support for this law. Providing remarks were:  Dr. Timothy Gabryel, Vice President, Medical Affairs at Mercy Hospital; Jason Jankowiak, Vice President, Catholic Health Cardiovascular Service Lines; Suzy McCarthy, American Heart Association Advocate; Aimee Gomlak, Vice President, Catholic Health Women’s Service Line; Dr. Thomas Riley, Neonatologist, Mercy Hospital Family BirthPlace; and Merredith Levin, mother of 5-year-old Charlie who is a congenital heart defect survivor and may have been helped by early detection through pulse-ox screening..

“As the number one killer of infants with birth defects, congenital heart defects take a significant toll on families across the country,” said Jason Jankowiak, who also serves as the chair-elect of the American Heart Association’s Buffalo Niagara Division Advisory Board. “We can now potentially save many more of these babies’ lives by screening them for heart defects using this non-invasive test.”

The pulse-ox test consists of sensors placed on a baby’s hand and foot to check blood oxygen levels. If their levels are too low, additional tests may be conducted that aid in detecting critical or possibly life-threatening heart defects that might otherwise go undetected.

“With a strong commitment to patient safety and quality care, Catholic Health implemented this additional newborn screening test last year at both of its birthing facilities at Mercy Hospital and Sisters of Charity Hospital,” said Aimee Gomlak. “Research shows that pulse-ox testing can help us identify from 90 to 99% of heart defects.”

New York now joins with nearly half of the states in the U.S. that requires this kind of newborn screening.