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Pediatrics. 2006 Oct;118(4):e1250-6.

Report of the Tennessee Task Force on Screening Newborn Infants for Critical Congenital Heart Disease.

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  • 1Division of Pediatric Cardiology, Monroe Carell Jr Children's Hospital, Vanderbilt Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee 37232-9119, USA.


A member of the Tennessee state legislature recently proposed a bill that would mandate all newborn infants to undergo pulse oximetry screening for the purpose of identifying those with critical structural heart disease before discharge home. The Tennessee Task Force on Screening Newborn Infants for Critical Congenital Heart Defects was convened on September 29, 2005. This group reviewed the current medical literature on this topic, as well as data obtained from the Tennessee Department of Health, and debated the merits and potential detriments of a statewide screening program. The estimated incidence of critical congenital heart disease is 170 in 100,000 live births, and of those, 60 in 100,000 infants have ductal-dependent left-sided obstructive lesions with the potential of presentation by shock or death if the diagnosis is missed. Of the latter group, the diagnosis is missed in approximately 9 in 100,000 by fetal ultrasound assessment and discharge examination and might be identified by a screening program. Identification of the missed diagnosis in these infants before discharge could spare many of them death or neurologic sequelae. Four major studies using pulse oximetry screening were analyzed, and when data were restricted to critical left-sided obstructive lesions, sensitivity values of 0% to 50% and false-positive rates of between 0.01% and 12% were found in asymptomatic populations. Because of this variability and other considerations, a meaningful cost/benefit analysis could not be performed. It was the consensus of the task force to provide a recommendation to the legislature that mandatory screening not be implemented at this time. In addition, we determined that a very large, prospective, perhaps multistate study is needed to define the sensitivity and false-positive rates of lower-limb pulse oximetry screening in the asymptomatic newborn population and that there needs to be continued partnering between the medical community, parents, and local, state, and national governments in decisions regarding mandated medical care.

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