Objectives: (i) To evaluate the impact of routine early pulse oximetry screening on the rate of unexpected neonatal unit (NNU) admissions and the need for echocardiography. (ii) To review the outcomes of babies admitted as a result of a positive pulse oximetry screening test.
Design: Retrospective review over a 40-month period.
Setting: Level 3 NNU.
Patients: All babies admitted as a result of positive pulse oximetry screening.
Main outcome measures: Indication for admission, clinical diagnosis and management were collated. Results 3552 babies were admitted during the study period. Of these, 1651 were unexpected admissions and 208/1651 (12.6%) were as a result of positive pulse oximetry screening. 165/208 babies (79%) had a significant clinical condition which required further intervention including 17 with congenital heart defect (CHD) (nine critical), 55 with pneumonia, 30 with sepsis and 12 with pulmonary hypertension. No baby died or collapsed on the postnatal ward during the study period. 61/208 babies (29%) had echocardiography and CHD was detected in 28%. Conclusions Routine use of pulse oximetry screening identifies babies with CHD and other illnesses, which, if not identified early could potentially lead to postnatal collapse. It does not appear to overload clinical services, resulting in appropriate admission in the majority and a modest increase in the number of echocardiograms performed.