Section: Mission Hospital News

New California Law Mandating Newborn Heart Screenings Saves a Life at Mission Hospital


MISSION VIEJO, Calif. (August 21, 2013) -- A California law that took effect July 1 requiring heart screening tests for all newborns recently helped save the life of an Orange County baby at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo.

"We're so very grateful that Mission Hospital did the test because otherwise Carlee might not be alive today," said Lori Cook, mother of Carlee Cook, who is now five weeks old. "They did the test three times and she failed the test each time. If not for the test we very likely could have brought her home and she might have died."

Born nine days after the law went into effect, Carlee is one of the first babies in the state to benefit from the newborn heart screening test. The screening found a problem with her heart, which led to additional testing. A few days later, Carlee underwent heart surgery at nearby Children's Hospital of Orange County. Because Carlee's condition was quickly diagnosed and treated as a result of the screening, she is expected to fully recover. She's now home in Ladera Ranch with her four siblings, her mother and her father, Tyler.

"We are extremely pleased that the new heart screening test is already making a positive impact on our patients," said pediatrician Lauren Dwinell, MD, co-chair of Mission Hospital Women's & Infant Services. "While the types of heart problems that this test is designed to find are very rare, this new test will certainly have a tremendous impact on babies like Carlee."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 300 infants born with an unrecognized critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) and are discharged each year from hospitals throughout the nation. The screening, a simple, inexpensive bedside test, determines the amount of oxygen in a baby's blood and the baby's pulse rate using a pulse oximeter. Low levels of oxygen in the blood can be a sign of a CCHD. Sensors are placed on the baby's skin and the painless test takes only a few minutes. Screening is administered when a baby is 24 to 48 hours old.

The March of Dimes sponsored the new law through Assembly Bill 1731, which was presented by Assembly Member Marty Block (D – San Diego.)

"March of Dimes has a long history advocating for newborn screening tests," said Justin Garrett, March of Dimes California State Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs. "We're thrilled that baby Carlee and the Cook family experienced a successful outcome from her early identification and subsequent heart surgery."