Pulse oximetry screening

Pulse oximetry screening is a safe, painless and simple test that has been shown, in research studies involving almost half a million babies, to consistently identify babies with life-threatening heart defects before they become seriously unwell.

Executive summary

  • Pulse oximetry screening is a proven way of identifying life-threatening heart defects in newborn babies. The test itself is safe, painless and simple.
  • However, the UK National Screening Committee (NSC) has launched a public consultation on its decision not to offer pulse oximetry screening to all UK newborn babies.
  • We believe that routine pulse oximetry screening would be hugely beneficial and we would therefore encourage people to respond to the consultation by 9 August 2019, urging the NSC to rethink their decision.

Background

Pulse oximetry screening is a safe, painless and simple test that has been shown, in research studies involving almost half a million babies, to identify consistently babies with life-threatening heart defects (critical congenital heart defects or CCHD) before they become seriously unwell.

The UK’s National Screening Committee has been considering routine pulse oximetry screening for critical heart defects in newborn babies for a number of years. Recently, the National Screening Committee launched a public consultation on its decision not to offer pulse oximetry screening to all UK newborn babies.

Our experts disagree with the National Screening Committee's decision, arguing there is a compelling body of research to show the benefits of routine screening.

Lead academic

Professor Andrew Ewer

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