Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD)

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Information for Families

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Information for Families Handout

Congratulations on the birth of your baby! Being a parent is a wonderful and challenging time filled with unexpected joys and uncertainties.

After your baby is born, your health care team will do some exams and screenings. One of the newest screens is for serious heart problems that your baby may have at birth. Health care providers call these problems “Critical Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD).“  

This screen for serious heart problems is called pulse oximetry. This screen:

  • measures oxygen in your baby’s blood.
  • is easy and painless.
  • is usually done when your baby is between 24 to 48 hours old. (If your child is on supplemental oxygen in the first days after birth, the pulse oximetry testing may be postponed.)

To do this screen, a nurse will put a small sensor, called a probe, on your baby’s right hand and on your baby’s foot. The probe measures the oxygen in your baby’s blood.

Most babies will pass this screening the first time and will not need any more screens. A small number of babies will need to have the pulse oximetry screening repeated. Babies with low oxygen levels on repeated screens will usually need to have another test called an echocardiogram to determine if they have a problem with their heart.

An echocardiogram is an ultrasound test of your baby’s heart. An echocardiogram is painless and is like the ultrasound some mothers have when they are pregnant. Many hospitals can perform an echocardiogram for babies, but some babies may need to go to a different health care facility to have an echocardiogram.

It is important to remember that pulse oximetry screening will not identify all babies who have problems with their hearts, as some babies may have normal oxygen levels at the time of the screen.

The reason to do pulse oximetry screening is to identify and treat babies with serious heart problems that are not found during prenatal care or routine newborn care. For more information, please go to other links on this website.

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