New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the first-in-the-nation legislation to protect the health of newborns from potentially life-threatening congenital birth defects. The legislation requires all inpatient or ambulatory healthcare facilities licensed by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services to perform pulse oximetry screenings that must be done a minimum of 24 hours after birth and on every newborn at a facility.
Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive, low-cost test used to identify congenital birth defects in newborns. It measures the percent of oxygen in the blood of an infant and whether a baby’s heart and lungs are healthy. The screening involves taping a sensor to the newborn’s foot that beams red light through the foot to measure blood oxygen content.
According to the HHS Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children, congenital heart disease affects approximately seven to nine of every 1000 live births in the U.S. and Europe. About 100 heart defects are detected in a year in New Jersey.
“Before they leave the hospital, the 102,000 babies born in New Jersey each year will now have a simple, painless screening test to ensure that any hidden but potentially life-threatening heart defects will be detected, We expect the pulse oximetry test to detect about 100 congenital heart defects in infants each year, enabling early treatment and preventing life-threatening injury or death,” according to Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O’ Dowd.