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March of Dimes - Rhode Island Chapter

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Providence, RI  02903

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    AB 1731, Lifesaving Newborn Screening Measure, Heads to Senate

    Sara Hyde-Lampa, State Director of Communications, March of Dimes California Chapter, (415)217-6371, shyde-lampa@marchofdimes.com

    $3 test saves lives, anguish, thousands in medical expenses for families

    Sacramento, California, May 30, 2012 —

    Lifesaving Newborn Screening Measure Heads to Senate

    $3 test saves lives, anguish, thousands in medical expenses for families


                SACRAMENTO—Legislation to ensure early detection of life-threatening congenital heart disease in newborns today left the Assembly on a 60 to12 vote. Assemblymember Marty Block (AD-78) wrote the measure, AB 1731.

                “AB 1731 gives babies a fighting chance to beat the ticking time bomb of congenital heart disease,” Block said. “With a simple, inexpensive, non-invasive test we can save lives and ensure the healthy development of our newborns.” The test, called the pulse oximetry screening, measures oxygen levels in an infant’s blood. Probes are attached to the baby’s hand and foot, and the readings are noted on a device a little larger than a bedside radio.

                Congenital heart disease involves defects of the walls, valves, veins or arteries of the heart and often is undetected before a newborn is discharged after birth. According to the March of Dimes, seven to nine babies out of every 1,000 born, have some form of the disease. In California, 30 infants die each year from undiagnosed Critical Congenital Heart Disease. Last year, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius recommended that this screening be added to the examinations newborns receive before discharge.

                Maryland, West Virginia, Indiana and New Jersey have already approved similar legislation.

                “While working on this bill, I’ve learned of heartbreaking stories from parents who take their babies home, full of joy, only to return within a few days or weeks to emergency rooms because their infant’s breathing faltered, and then organs began to shut down as the disease revealed itself,” Block said.

                “If the congenital heart defects can be spotted before a baby leaves the hospital, physicians can begin to treat the baby immediately before a life-threatening situation develops,” he added. “The infants usually are stronger physically with earlier interventions and are better able to come through the open heart surgeries and other procedures they might need as part of their treatment.” In one Swedish study, one half of newborns were screened, but not the other half. While no infant died among the test group that received the screening, five children died from the group not receiving the test.

                Block noted that one San Diego County family took their infant home only to seek emergency care after three days. He was misdiagnosed and eventually spent 13 days in the neonatal intensive care unit to stabilize his condition. Once he was stronger, the child was airlifted to a larger hospital, and there underwent open heart surgery.

                The now-19-month old faces more surgery in June. His parents said the care cost $200,000. A pulse oximetry screening would have cost about three dollars, and their baby could have avoided some or all of the intensive care required to stabilize him before surgery, and they would have been able to avoid much of the emotional trauma and uncertainty they faced as their baby fought to live. 

            “March of Dimes is honored to sponsor AB 1731 and has a long history of working hand in hand with the California Legislature to ensure babies born in our state have the best chance for a healthy start in life,” said March of Dimes Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee Chair Gail Margolis.  “The simple test required by AB 1731 is cost effective and will save lives.”

              AB 1731 is also supported by the American Heart Association, the California Medical Association, the California Chapter of the American College of Cardiologists, the Children’s Specialty Care Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

    Links of Interest:

    •   AB 1731 text and bill analysis

    •   Daily Breeze: “Infant son’s battle with heart condition spurs mother into action”

    •   California Healthline Capitol Desk: “Newborn Test Takes Baby Step Forward”

    •   San Jose Mercury News Op Ed: “Assemblyman Marty Block: Legislature should require simple, life-saving heart screening for infants”

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