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Grant Will Help Hospitals Detect Heart Disease Risk in Newborns - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Grant Will Help VA Hospitals Detect Heart Disease Risk in Newborns

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Medical centers in central Virginia will help set the standard for catching heart disease risk in newborns before they leave the hospital. The Virginia Health Department earned a $900,000 grant to help make it happen.

Nationwide, only a few hundred newborns each year are born with serious heart disease that doctors and nurses don't catch right away. A screening procedure nicknamed "pulse-ox" could give parents more peace of mind, and central Virginia hospitals are helping write the book on how it's done.

Every year millions of babies will go home perfectly healthy. Less than 10,000 nationwide will be born with critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) and existing screening catches all but a few hundred cases.

"The key is, how do we find that needle in the haystack. How can we find babies who have a risk of getting very sick once they go home, and we pick them up before they go home so we can bring them to the medical attention," said Dr. Paul Matherne of University of Virginia Pediatrics.

The answer may be this test that  measures oxygen levels in the blood for one-day-old paisley. It's quick and completely non-invasive using a probe attached to the right hand, then either foot.

The pulse-oximetry screening may be standard procedure after a pilot program at six Virginia hospitals, including UVA, Martha Jefferson and Augusta Health.

"It's vitally important that our demonstration sites tell us the good, how it works... but also the challenges they have so that we can smooth those out and help make it better for all Virginia families," said  Kathleen Moline of the Virginia Health Department.

Virginia was among only six states to earn federal grant money for the study.

"We will help develop the protocols and policies that will help inform the rest of the country how to do it the best. So it's really a feather in the cap of the Commonwealth of Virginia to be a leader in this," said Matherne.

The Health Department says parents won't have to wonder if the screening will be covered by insurance.  The Department of Health and Human Services recommends the procedure, and provided the grants to study the best ways to carry it out.

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