New York to Require Screening Newborns for Heart Defects


New York hospitals will be required to screen newborns for heart defects next year under a new law.

The measure signed this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will require all birthing facilities to administer a 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.

The process involves taping a small sensor to a newborn’s foot and beaming light at the foot to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. The screening is more effective than more common tests, and some hospitals already use it.

“Pulse ox is simple, painless, and more importantly, could
save a baby’s life,” said Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Middletown Democrat and registered nurse who sponsored the bill. “All babies deserve a healthy start with a healthy heart.”

The law takes effect in 180 days.

Advocates of the procedure say congenital heart disease affects seven to nine of every 1,000 live births in the U.S. and Europe, while the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it affects about 4,600 babies born yearly here and is the leading cause of infant death due to birth defects.

Cuomo has signed several other health-related measures this week, including one to ban smoking outdoors on campus grounds and within 15 feet of the property lines of hospitals and residential health-care facilities. Aimed at limiting secondhand smoke, it takes effect in 90 days and allows residential care facilities to establish a designated outdoor smoking area for patients and guests.

State law already bans indoor smoking at health-care facilities. Sponsors said New York City instituted an outdoor ban in 2009, and more than 100 hospitals have voluntarily done it.