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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
June 02, 2011

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Michael Drewniak
Kevin Roberts
609-777-2600


 
Governor Christie Signs Legislation to Monitor Newborns for Congenital Heart Defects
A-3744 Makes New Jersey First State in the Nation to Require Statewide Pulse Oximetry Screenings


 

From the Office of the Governor:

Trenton, NJ – Governor Chris Christie signed first-in-the-nation legislation today to protect the health of newborns from potentially life-threatening congenital birth defects by requiring all inpatient or ambulatory health care facilities licensed by the Department of Health and Senior Services to perform pulse oximetry screenings. The screenings must be completed a minimum of 24 hours after birth and on every newborn at a facility. The legislation makes New Jersey the first state to mandate pulse oximetry testing on newborns statewide.

“As the father of four, I know the birth of a child should be a joyous occasion for parents and family,” said Governor Christie. “There are times when an infant does not readily exhibit symptoms of a potential defect and the condition may not be detected in a routine exam. This legislation will help identify infants who may have hidden, serious heart problems before they leave the hospital, making a significant difference in the lives of these babies, their families and their treating physicians.”

Pulse oximetry is a non-invasive, low-cost test used to identify congenital birth defects in newborns. It measures the percent of oxygen in the blood of an infant and whether a baby’s heart and lungs are healthy. The screening involves taping a sensor to the newborn’s foot that beams red light through the foot to measure blood oxygen content.

“Before they leave the hospital, the 102,000 babies born in our state each year will now have a simple, painless screening test to ensure that any hidden, but potentially life-threatening heart defects will be detected,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O’Dowd, who is expecting her first child in a few weeks.

"We expect the pulse oximetry test to detect about 100 congenital heart defects in infants each year, enabling early treatment and preventing life-threatening injury or death," O'Dowd said.

According to the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children, congenital heart disease affects approximately seven to nine of every 1,000 live births in the United States and Europe. About 100 heart defects a year are detected in newborns in New Jersey.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that congenital heart defects are the leading cause of infant death due to birth defects. When left untreated, congenital birth defects may cause physical and mental disabilities, or even death.

Sponsors of the legislation in the Assembly include Assemblypersons Jason O’Donnell (D-Hudson), Connie Wagner (D-Bergen) and Ruben J. Ramos, Jr. (D-Hudson). Senate version sponsors are Senators Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) and Joseph F. Vitale (D—Middlesex).

 
 
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