Thursday, October 2, 2014

All Utah Newborns Now Screened for Critical Congenital Heart Disease

(Salt Lake City, UT) As of October 1, 2014, a new Utah law requires every newborn infant born in the state to be screened for critical congenital heart disease or CCHD. Utah joins 38 other states that require this pulse oximetry screening to detect a CCHD shortly after birth.

 Every year in Utah, an estimated 64 babies are born with critical congenital heart disease. CCHDs are a group of heart conditions that can go undiagnosed in the newborn period. If not diagnosed soon after birth, CCHD can lead to serious medical problems or even death. 

The screening takes just minutes and senses the oxygen saturation by placing a soft probe on the infant’s hand and foot.  Low saturation values can signal a problem. “This simple, non-invasive screening can save lives,” said Dr. Harper Randall, Medical Director over the newborn screening programs at the Utah Department of Health. Data from the Utah Birth Defect Network show that CCHDs occur in roughly 12 of every 10,000 babies, or one in every 835 births in Utah.  While many cases are diagnosed prenatally by ultrasound, those that are not may be identified through screening soon after birth.

“'We're so fortunate to live in an era where we can screen effectively for a greater number of diseases, said Dr. Paul Wirkus, Community Pediatrician with Cottonwood Pediatrics. “The earlier we find serious conditions with preventable consequences, the more effective our interventions can be.  Newborn screening of all types has made the world a safer place for children," Wirkus said.

During the 2013 legislative session, Representative Paul Ray introduced House Bill 276 to help ensure that all babies born in Utah receive the potentially life-saving screening. 

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH), in collaboration with the University of Utah, began a demonstration project two years ago to pilot CCHD screening at two hospitals. When the demonstration project began, a minority of Utah birthing facilities were screening for CCHD. UDOH has provided birthing facilities with educational material and training opportunities, which has contributed to the majority of birthing facilities in Utah screening for CCHD well before the mandated start date of October 1.

For more information on CCHD, visit  or call the Utah CCHD Screening Project office at 1-866-818-7096.

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Media Contact:
Amy Nance 
Program Manager