x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Heart test success for newborns

More than 18,000 newborns were screened for congenital heart disease with the health authority's new method last year.

ABU DHABI // More than 18,000 newborns were screened for congenital heart disease with the health authority's new method last year.

This brings the coverage rate for pulse oximetry, which uses a light probe to test oxygen levels in the blood, to 90 per cent.

Of those, nine were found to have congenital heart disease.

"Those babies would not have been detected using the traditional physical exam," said Dr Gerard Martin, the senior vice president of the Children's National Heart Institute. "It meant they would have gone home and either died or faced severe health problems."

Last year, the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (Haad) teamed up with the US Children's National Heart Institute to launch a pilot project where healthcare professionals at Tawam Hospital and Corniche Hospital were trained in conducting the test.

In January, the screening was made mandatory at all birthing centres in the emirate.

The examination is carried out a day after birth and takes three minutes. Coupled with the physical test, the light probe, or "pulse oximetry", is about 95 per cent accurate.

The next step is to develop a formalised reporting process, Dr Martin said.

"The target for full implementation is set to the next six months," he said. "We've had very quick turnaround time, and in the process we've saved many lives."

mismail@thenational.ae