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Newborn Pulse Oximetry Savings Lives at CCMH


(Denison, IA) – According to the American Heart Association, only 30% of hospitals in Iowa provide the screening test necessary to identify infants with critical congenital heart defects (CCHDs). The test, known as newborn pulse oximetry, measures the amount of oxygen in a newborn’s blood stream which might indicate a heart defect. Crawford County Memorial Hospital began using newborn pulse oximetry in April 2012 to screen for heart defects in all newborns. Nine states have laws mandating the test. However, Iowa isn’t one of them.

“Since we began using the pulse oximetry screening, we’ve identified two babies with potential heart defects” said Amy Hartwig, director of the New Beginnings Birth Center at CCMH. “We provide the test for free. It’s a simple and painless screening that can be administered in a matter of just a few minutes. In many instances, it can be a life‐saving test.”


An newborn in the New Beginnings Birth Center at CCMH undergoes the pulse oximetry screening. The free test takes only a few minutes but can be a lifesaver.

The test is done using a machine called a pulse oximeter with sensors placed on the baby’s skin, typically the right hand and either foot. Without screening, some newborns with heart defects could be missed because the signs of CCHD might not be evident before an infant is discharged from the hospital after birth.

Diane Arkfeld, vice president of clinical services and chief nursing officer for CCMH, noted the offering of the newborn pulse oximetry screening has become a topic of discussion in healthcare circles. “The American Heart Association has made newborn pulse oximetry testing a legislative priority this year in Iowa. Knowing that the test can find heart problems early and fix them means we can provide each child with the opportunity for a normal, active life.”

According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 4,800 babies born in the United States each year have one of seven CCHDs.

Bill Bruce, president and CEO of CCMH, commented, “With a focus on quality in our patient care, the use of the newborn pulse oximetry test is one more way our staff can help new parents have peace of mind, knowing they have access to the latest screening tools and technology.”

The mission of Crawford County Memorial Hospital is to provide efficient and effective health care services to all persons within Crawford County and the surrounding area. These services are available to persons who suffer from acute or chronic diseases, traumatic injuries, or who are in need of education and/or training in order to maintain a positive lifestyle.