Test saving babies' lives

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PHOENIX -- Congenital heart disease affects one out of every 100 births in the United States. While not every case is critical some are, which means the earlier a diagnosis the better. One test is saving lives before a newborn leaves the hospital.

“We had expected to go find out what the gender was and we were excited,” Stacey Lihn said.

But the excitement quickly turned to shock for the Valley mom and her husband, Caleb.

“She had something called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, which essentially means that she would be born with half a heart,” Stacey Lihn said.

The Lihns wanted to give their daughter, Zoe, a fighting chance. After all, congenital heart disease is one of the most common types of birth defects. Their daughter has already had two open heart surgeries.

“There are survivors that are in their early 30s,” Lihn said. “So there is a lot of help for children with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.”

Doctors diagnosed Zoe during an ultrasound. This is one way to detect a heart defect according to pediatric cardiologist Ashish Shah with Arizona Pediatric Cardiology Consultants

“The second way would be post-natal, after a child is born due to a physical exam finding,” Shah said.

Another test is something called a Pulse Oximetry Screening.

“You can wrap it around a palm and or foot and have the child wear it to get an accurate reading of what the oxygen saturation is,” Shah said. “There is known abnormal oxygen saturation in all individuals and those would prompt further evaluation.”

In a recent report, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended a nationwide screening using this test for critical congenital heart disease before a newborn leaves the hospital.

“We really are looking forward to working with the hospitals,” said Sue Braga with the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It's a huge care coordination piece, especially once that baby is deemed positive, and those kinds of areas are going to be our rural and the altitude issues having to do around false positives."

While her group is working with other state agencies to implement this screening test properly, the Lihns believe the Pulse Oximetry Screening is something all newborns should get.
“You have a condition that is life-altering, but it can be treated and it's difficult,” Caleb Lihn said. “But to not have that opportunity, I think is terrible when the technology is there to catch it.”

The University Medical Center in Tucson has had a Pulse Oximetry screening program in place for the last five years.

For more information about the Pulse Oximetry National Screening log onto, www.azaap.org.

To help in fighting Congenital Heart Disease:
Congenital Heart Walk & 5K Run on Sunday, Nov. 6