NY Legislature to Require Heart Screens of Babies

ALBANY (AP) -

Newborns will be required to be tested for congenital heart defects under a new, quick screening process that New York lawmakers agreed to Wednesday.

The measure would require all birthing facilities to administer the test called pulse oximetry screening. The one-minute procedure provides early detection of heart defects that could be addressed quickly by surgery, potentially saving babies’ lives.

The process involves taping a small sensor to a newborn’s foot as light is beamed at the foot to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. The screening is more effective than more common tests.

Congenital heart disease hits seven to nine of every 1,000 newborns in the United States, according to Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Democratic representing Sullivan county.

“By performing this simple test, doctors can take the appropriate and necessary steps to ensure that newborns get the care they need, should they have heart defects,” said Sen. William Larkin, an Orange County Republican who co-sponsored the bill. “Simply, this measure will save lives.”

Kelsey Thomas of Syracuse said the test saved her son’s life by detecting low oxygen in his blood a day after he was born. Jacob had surgery eight days later and now is healthy at 14 months old.

“It’s a little test that can give a big result — a saved life,” Thomas said.

The Senate approved the measure Wednesday. The Assembly approved it in May. It now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who could sign it into law. Cuomo said he will review the measure.

Thirteen states require the screening. It would be paid for through insurance or through government health care programs for parents who lack insurance.