A painless, required tests detects congenital heart defects - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

A painless, required tests detects congenital heart defects

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Baby Roth is getting a simple, painless test that will tell doctors a lot about her little heart. Baby Roth is getting a simple, painless test that will tell doctors a lot about her little heart.

A baby undergoes multiple tests to make sure they are healthy before they go home, but there's one test every baby born at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's gets to check the health of their hearts.  You may not have even known your baby had the required test done, but it's savings lives and keeping even the tiniest patients healthy.

Baby Roth is getting a simple, painless test that will tell doctors a lot about her little heart.

"The test is to detect congenital heart defects that would otherwise not be recognized before the baby was sent home, so the baby could potentially have a very serious abnormality of its heart but appear healthy or be completely a-symptomatic and then after discharge home become ill," says Dr. Kristi Boelke, a Neonatologist with UnityPoint Health-St. Luke's.

A little piece of soft tape is wrapped around a newborn baby's wrist and foot.  It's connected to a monitor that measures the amount of oxygen in a baby's blood.  That number could indicate the baby has a congenital heart defect, which is a very serious problem.

"It affects the way the blood circulates through the heart and the way the baby receives oxygen and it could lead to long term injury to the brain or other major organ systems and some could eventually lead to death," says Dr. Boelke.

Dr. Boelke says every baby born at the hospital gets the free test when they are 24-hours-old.

"These babies would otherwise be sent home and anywhere from 100 to 200 babies die each year with these unrecognized congenital heart defect, so it's going to reduce the incidence of that before these babies are sent home," says Dr. Boelke.

About three out of every thousand babies have a congenital heart defect and with 2,000 babies delivered each year at St. Luke's, they can save about six lives a year.  

"If their screening is positive, they eventually have to have some sort of treatment, most often it's surgery, so it's important to catch them early because the earlier the surgery is done and the healthier the infant is at the time of surgery, the better the outcome for the infant," says Dr. Boelke.

Even after they take their babies home, Dr. Boelke says parents should always watch for symptoms of a heart problem.  Those include a bluish color to the lips or fingertips, increased breathing rate, difficulty eating, sweating while they eat, or they aren't gaining weight.  Dr. Boelke says if your baby has any of these symptoms call your pediatrician immediately or take them to the emergency room.

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