Whidbey General Hospital

Newborns Screened for Heart Defects

Heart defects are the most common birth defect and the leading cause of newborn and infant deaths. Thankfully, every baby born at the hospital’s Whidbey Family Birthplace is monitored using pulse oximetry, a painless, noninvasive procedure that may identify some heart defects before symptoms appear.
Newborns Screened for Heart Defects

Pulse oximeter on a baby's ankle

Pulse oximtery measures oxygen saturation of arterial blood. Abnormal results may indicate a problem with a baby’s heart and lead to immediate treatment or to a referral to a pediatric cardiac specialist. These steps can prevent death or disability. Without pulse oximetry, a newborn with a heart defect could be sent home without needed care, since these babies often appear healthy at first.

More than five years ago, Dr. Sidney Sparks proposed using pulse oximetry at the Whidbey Family Birthplace, where she is part of an expert team of pediatricians that cares for newborns. At the time, each baby was screened by checking their blood pressure, which is not as effective as pulse oximetry at identifying cardiac problems in the early newborn phase.

With the medical team eager to upgrade cardiac screening, pulse oximetry for every baby soon became standard practice at Whidbey General, well before it was used even in many larger hospitals. “Dr. Sparks knew this procedure could save lives,” says Trish Nilsen, RNC, manager of the Whidbey Family Birthplace. “Our nurses were already vigilantly checking each baby prior to discharge. Dr. Sparks helped update our practices to provide an even better screening tool. This is a great example of how your local hospital provides quality health care close to home.”

With skilled staff, state-of-the-art equipment, beautiful rooms and ample space, the Whidbey Family Birthplace offers a supportive environment for moms, babies and families.

Dr. Sidney Sparks practices at Pediatric Associates of Whidbey Island and is a member of the Whidbey General medical staff.


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