Screening newborns for congenital heart disease with pulse oximetry: survey of pediatric cardiologists

Pediatr Cardiol. 2009 Jan;30(1):20-5. doi: 10.1007/s00246-008-9270-8. Epub 2008 Jul 25.


Background: Controversies exist regarding the use of pulse oximetry for routine screening of newborns. This study aimed to evaluate current practices and opinions of pediatric cardiologists in relation to newborn screening for congenital heart disease (CHD) using pulse oximetry.

Methods: Email invitations were sent to 1,045 pediatric cardiologists in North America. The survey was Internet based and included multiple-choice questions. Two repeat email reminders were sent after the initial invitation.

Results: A total of 363 responses (35%) were returned. In terms of experience, 40% of the respondents had more than 20 years, 32% had 10 to 20 years, 21% had 5 to 10 years, and 6% had less than 5 years of experience. More than 90% agreed that an early diagnosis of CHD for newborns prevents morbidity and mortality. In terms of practice, 96% reported that all newborns are examined by a clinician before discharge, 29% reported that newborns get a pulse oximetry reading, and 1.4% (n = 5) reported the use of electrocardiogram. Only 58% of respondents thought that current practice is adequate for detecting significant CHD. With regard to their experience with pulse oximetry, 26% reported "too many false-positives," 21% described it as "prone to noise and artifact," and 30% viewed it as "very operator dependent." The overall support for mandated pulse oximetry screening was 55%. The support for mandate decreased with years of experience, with 76% of the supporters having less than 5 years, 58% of those having 5 to 10 years, 53% of those having 10 to 20 years, and 51% of those having more than 20 years of experience.

Conclusions: Pediatric cardiologists recognize that current practice is inadequate for detecting significant CHD. Slightly more than half of the pediatric cardiologists in this study supported a mandate for pulse oximetry screening, but there were many concerns, and the support decreased with increasing years of clinical experience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cardiology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnosis*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Neonatal Screening*
  • North America
  • Oximetry*
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data*