Simple blood oxygen test 'could detect heart problems earlier'

5 August 2011

The risk of uncovering heart problems in later life, such as congenital heart defects, could be significantly lowered through a non-invasive test, claim scientists.

A study involving 20,000 newborn babies and published in the Lancet today (August 5th) has discovered that a small examination designed to measure levels of oxygen in the blood could help detect congenital heart defects in addition to procedures already in use, such as a cardiac CT or an ultrasound scan during pregnancy.

Senior cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation Amy Thompson said: "Not all babies who are born with a heart defect will show any signs or symptoms, so problems can go unnoticed."

She added: "This is a promising piece of research."

Nearly one in every 145 births are affected by such problems, but the study has underscored the need and availability of further early detection procedures.

The Lancet paper follows findings unveiled this week that argued the treatment of heart disease could, in many cases, be achieved through drugs normally prescribed for blood pressure.

Posted by Philip Briggs

1 Ewer, Andrew K., et al., " Screening with pulse oximetry for congenital heart disease". The Lancet. Friday August 5 2011.

2 Nadir, M. Adnan., et al. "Impact of Renin-Angiotensin System Blockade Therapy on Outcome in Aortic Stenosis". Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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