Published: 04/02/2013

Congenital Heart Disease Screenings Makes Early Detection Possible at Evangelical’s The Family Place

For new parents, reassurances their newborn is healthy provide comfort and at The Family Place, the obstetrics unit of Evangelical Community Hospital, those reassurances come through a series of health screens.
One such screen is for congenital heart disease, a condition that is found in approximately 7,200 newborns each year.  Through a simple test, cardiac defects can be detected in 24-48 hours after birth, much sooner than the typical four or five days when symptoms normally start to present.
Using pulse oximetry, a non-invasive method of monitoring oxygen in blood cells, nurses in The Family Place can painlessly identify whether infants have symptoms of seven critical congenital heart defects.
Robbie Ravert, a 40-year Registered Nurse certified in inpatient obstetrics at The Family Place said, “The screen is painless and gives us the opportunity to address issues through early detection; it doesn’t necessarily detect all cardiac defects, but it can identify an issue if there is one much earlier than in the past. These screens are an excellent way of providing reassurance to new parents while at the same time supporting state programs that are put in place to protect newborns and promote well-being.”
Done at the mother’s bed-side on an awake and calm newborn, nurses place an oximeter or hemoglobin reading device on the right hand and take a reading, then move to either foot and take another reading. The hands and feet are well-oxygenated areas of the body. The oximeter shows how much oxygen is being transported to all areas of the body.
If the screen indicates the newborn has lower than normal levels of oxygen in their blood, or a positive reading, a cardiologist is called in to do a work-up and additional tests to get a better idea of what may be the cause. This is often done in consultation with a pediatrician.
The congenital heart disease screening is one of a panel of tests conducted on newborns including a hearing and a metabolic blood screen. All of the tests are mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health but parents are given the option to decline after being educated on the purpose of the screen.
So far Evangelical’s The Family Place has seen no positive congenital heart disease screens on their newborns.
Evangelical’s The Family Place began renovations in late 2012 to provide patients with even more comfortable and modern accommodations. Renovations include upgrades to patient rooms, the nursery, the labor and delivery suite, the family waiting room, and other common areas. Scheduled in eight phases so as not to interrupt the family-centered care environment of the unit, The Family Place is anticipated to be completed in 2014. The expert staff of The Family Place deliver over 1,000 babies each year.

Sharon Hixson, RNC, The Family Place, waits for the oximeter on baby Julius’ right hand to tell her if he is at risk for congential heart disease.


The oximeter used to measure the amount of oxygen in a newborn’s blood simply wraps around the right hand or foot and sends an oxygen reading to a small piece of equipment on a traveling cart. The test can be done at the mother’s bedside and can indicate if there is a concern for congenital heart disease within 24-48 hours after birth.