Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Donate Today
Health, Science & Tech

Legislation Would Require PA Newborns Be Tested For Heart Defects

Every year 40,000 babies are born in the U.S. with congenital heart defects, and parents might not be aware of their infant’s condition. 

Pennsylvania law requires hospitals and birthing centers to test newborns for six genetic disorders, including maple syrup urine disease and Sickle Cell Disease, as well as 23 other disorders.

The state Legislature is getting ready to add one more to the list — congenital heart defect — which according to the March of Dimes, claims thousands of lives annually before the child is a year old.

The state Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1420 and returned it to the lower chamber for consideration of amendments. The legislation would require all birthing centers to screen newborns for heart defects using pulse oximetry, a simple oxygen test.

“These tests will detect and allow treatment of a lot of diseases on a lot of sick children which will cost virtually nothing to administer,” said Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) who sponsored a similar measure three years ago.

According to Leach, the estimated cost is $1 to $4 per screening and the test could save lives.

“I think there will be many children whose names we will never know will be here and live full lives as a result of this legislation,” Leach said.

The bill defines a newborn as a child fewer than 28 days old. The Senate added an amendment that if a health care practitioner delivers the child somewhere other than a birthing facility, the test must be performed within 48 hours of the birth. The measure does allow parents to refuse the screening based on religious grounds.

A provision in the legislation allows for the use of new technology that could be developed to replace pulse oximetry in the future.

The House is expected to give final approval to the Senate changes within a week.