Implication of pulse oxymetry screening for detection of congenital heart defects

Klin Padiatr. 2010 Sep;222(5):291-5. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1253391. Epub 2010 May 10.


Background: In newborns congenital heart defects can take an asymptomatic course, causing a diagnostic gap in the routine examination. Therefore pulsoxymetric screening is under discussion, as it could close this diagnostic gap.

Patients and methods: Non-invasive postductal peripheral oxygen saturation assessment was carried out in 3 364 term neonates, 6-36 h of age, in 2008. In asymptomatic neonates with values > or = 95%, no further steps were applied. In those with values between 90% and 94% and no clinical abnormalities, a check-up was carried out 4-6 h later. Echocardiography was performed when the initial value was below 90% or persisted < 95 %.

Results: A total of 18 (0.5%) abnormal pulse oximetry values requiring echocardiographic investigation were found in the 3 364 neonates examined. 9 congenital heart defects that had not been recognized prenatally were diagnosed. 4 of these children were also found to have anomalies at the clinical examination. Persistent fetal circulation was noted in 2 of the neonates.In addition neonatal infections has been detected in 7 newborns. 1 neonate with stenosis of the aortic isthmus and 1 with pulmonary stenosis were missed in the screening program, with pulse oximetry saturation levels >95%. These data represent a sensitivity of 82% and a specificity of 99.9%, with a positive predictive value of 50% and a negative predictive value of 99.9%.

Conclusions: Together with the clinical examination, pulse oximetry in neonates is a screening method that has high levels of sensitivity and specificity for early diagnosis of congenital heart defects. The risk-benefit profile may favour pulse oximetry to be standardized and universally used.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / blood
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Neonatal Screening*
  • Oximetry* / statistics & numerical data
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal