A simple heart screening at birth could identify potentially life-threatening defects, scientists have claimed.

The painless test, which measures bloody oxygen levels in newborn babies identifies congenital heart defects - a major cause of infant death - which often go missed by current tests, it is claimed.

The researchers, led by Birmingham University's Dr Andrew Ewer, claim that early identification could then lead to treatment through surgery or medication.

The research team, using their "pulse oximetry" technique, identified 18 more cases than those found solely using an ultrasound. However, when the test was used in conjunction with an ultrasound, the team identified 92 per cent of cases. No babies died from the test groups from undiagnosed problems.

Dr Ewer said: "This study has shown conclusively that this test is advantageous. We would like to see all babies being routinely tested. In this way the test will pick up additional babies who might otherwise have become very ill or even died.

"I think we now have enough evidence to say that pulse oximetry screening should be incorporated into everyday clinical practice."

Posted by Robert Mair on 8.8.11 Please send your comments on this article to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com  

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