Neonatal pulse oximetry screening improves detecting of critical congenital heart disease

Xiao-jing Ma, Guo-ying Huang
Chinese Medical Journal 2013, 126 (14): 2736-40

OBJECTIVE: Life-threatening critical congenital heart disease (cCHD) is often not detected in the neonatal period. Unrecognized cCHD results in high morbidity and mortality rates. As a non-invasive, convenient, quick and accurate measuring method, pulse oximetry is considered to be a promising strategy to screen for cCHD in neonates. This article is a review on the neonatal pulse oximetry screening for cCHD.

DATA SOURCES: Articles on neonatal pulse oximetry screening for cCHD were accessed from PubMed, using keywords including congenital heart defects, neonatal screening and oximetry.

STUDY SELECTION: Original articles and critical reviews selected were relevant to the review's theme.

RESULTS: The factors in the course of implementation, including threshold for positive pulse-oximetry screening results, the pulse oximeters used, timing of the screening, and the measuring position, influence the accuracy of the screening. It is recommended that the screening is completed on the second day of life, before hospital discharge. Motion-tolerant pulse oximeters, which can also be applied to measure the saturation in low-perfusion conditions, should be used. The probe should be put on both the right hand and on one foot. Thresholds of < 95% in either limb or a difference of > 3% between the limbs as a positive result may be appropriate. It should be emphasized that pulse-oximetry screening cannot be used as the only way to detect cCHD, clinical examination is also important in this situation. Cost-benefit analysis in the United Kingdom revealed it was plausible to use pulse oximetry as an adjunct to clinical examination. However, it is still controversial as to whether pulse oximetry can be used as a routine screening method for cCHD in neonates.

CONCLUSIONS: Neonatal pulse oximetry screening improves detection of cCHD. Further studies should be carried out before it becomes one of the routine newborn screening programs.

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