UNH helps implement changes for newborn heart testing in hospitals

By Brian Ward
On November 20, 2012


Recently, the decision was made to have testing for Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD) added to the battery of tests given to newborns at the hospital. The UNH Institute on Disability received a $900,000 federal grant to help hospitals in New England develop a standard method of testing newborns for CCHD

CCHD covers a group of heart defects that can be fatal for infants and accounts for 30 percent of all infant deaths related to birth defects. The condition is typically treatable if caught early, but due to lack of initial symptoms, 300 newborns leave the hospital without being treated every year.

"This is why doing initial screening is so important; it might be weeks, months before symptoms appear in some infants," said Karen Smith, the project coordinator with the New England Genetics Collaborative.

Smith has been working with the UNH Institute of Disability on the project. According to Smith, all infants are tested for certain treatable conditions when they are born, and that testing for CCHD will benefit many, as well.   

 "It is for people in New England to start to talk about it, collaborate, share best practices, what works and what doesn't. We'll end up with a more uniformed approach for the New England states that's better for families," Smith said.

According to Smith, the testing for CCHD is relatively simple and can be done right at the hospital without having to send away for blood testing. The development of a standard testing procedure would lower the number of mistakes made in testing, and would ease the burden put on doctors and lab technicians.  

"For it to have been added to screening, we had to do an extensive review. It has a high bar, when conditions are added. It adds a lot to lab workers review process," Smith said. "Newborn heart screening saves a life, that's the message."

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