A congenital heart defect (CHD) seems like an exotic, anomalous medical condition. Yet, each year it claims more children’s lives than all childhood cancers combined. And CHD remains the leading cause of all birth-defect related deaths
Forty thousand babies are born with CHD each year. The cost of care is staggering. Approximately 25 percent of those born with CHD will need surgery or other complex interventions to survive.
In 2009, roughly $1.5 billion was spent in the United States alone on 27,000 hospital stays for children treated primarily for CHD. The hospital cost for roughly 12,000 adults with CHD was at least $280 million.
Because of improvements in early diagnosis and care, more CHD patients are surviving. Advocacy groups estimate between two and three million people in the United States are living with this condition.
To raise more awareness about CHD and its cost to families and society , the week of February 7-14 has been declared Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. Gov. Mark Dayton lent his support to the campaign by signing a state proclamation acknowledging this initiative. In the proclamation, he said it provides an opportunity for families to share their experiences and knowledge of CHD and to build awareness.
Ben Flannery, MD, a pediatrician and medical director for FamilyHealth Medical Clinics, says early diagnosis is critical to improving outcomes for those born with heart defects. For the past eight years, Northfield Hospital’s First Touch Birth Center has been testing infants’ oxygenation, a key indicator of the heart’s performance, at the mother’s bedside. If readings are consistently below a threshold an echocardiogram is performed in the nursery.
“Early identification of congenital heart defects is the key to avoiding severe and life threatening medical complications in these newborn babies,” said Dr. Flannery. “At Northfield Hospital, we use pulse oximetry testing on all newborns to help identify abnormalities that may not otherwise be apparent on a standard newborn physical exam.”
For more information, go to: http://www.chphc.org/hostedsites/Pages/default.aspx.