Pulse oximetry is a cheap and painless screening that helps determine if your child has a heart defect.
Considering that heart defects affect 1 in 100 babies, pulse ox screening it of the utmost importance and there are parents in almost every state, working to get pulse ox screening mandated.
First thing you need to know: pulse ox is painless.
There are no needles, no crying, no blood, and no tears. It takes only a moment to get a reading and your baby can be in your arms the whole time. As you can see below, my first son, Monkey, is demonstrating how easy it is to do. Monkey Jr. there has a pulse ox sensor on his left foot and it is no bigger then a bandaid and just as easy to put on.
The pink machine you see above is the pulse ox machine. Once the probe is in place, the sensor in the band beams a shot of light through the baby's foot, measuring the amount of oxygen in the blood. The machine will then light up with a number; this number is very important because it will tell nurses whether your child may have a heart or lung problem.
A "passing" pulse ox reading is above 95%. A normal healthy person's oxygen saturation should be right at 100%, but when there are heart or lung problems and your body isn't getting enough oxygen, those numbers can be down in the 70's or 60's.
That's all it takes to screen a baby for heart defects.
If your baby's oxygen percentage is below 95%, then the process continues on.
The algorithm below is what every hospital in West Virginia is using.
If your baby fails the screening all three times, then the appropriate motions will be taken to ensure your baby gets the treatment and care they need.
First they will call for a pediatric cardiology referral and if the hospital you are in cannot take care of a heart baby, then you will be transferred to somewhere that can.
Try not to worry!
This is a good thing. You want to have the best care and the best doctors in a situation like this. I know it is scary to go to a big city and to be admitted to the "heart room" but it is all for your baby's health and after a while it won't be so scary.
What happens after that could be a short or very long story. I hope if you found this page after realizing your baby will need heart surgery, that you don't feel so alone or so helpless. The CHD community is large and very supportive and loving.