Contact: Angie Anania
Dir. of Public Information & Media
Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center and
Rocky Mount Children at P/SL
Cell: 303‐210‐0659


February 24, 2012

Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL launches Study to obtain critical data for the early detection of Congenital Heart Disease in Newborns

DENVER -- Physicians from the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL joined state representatives Randy Fischer and Tom Massey and Sen. Betty Boyd at the Capitol this morning to support House Joint Resolution 1014 that encourages Pulse Ox screenings--testing oxygen levels in the blood--on newborns to support the early detection of congenital heart defects. Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL has the largest Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in the Rocky Mountain Region. Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Reginald Washington, says his team is proactive in identifying heart defects as early as possible.

“The best case scenario is diagnosing a heart defect before the baby is born, which we do in our maternal/fetal program at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL. However if the heart defect is not diagnosed before birth, we are creating testing standards, for physicians in this region, to catch these problems before the babies are sent home.”

Dr. Delphine Eichorst and Dr. Mike Pettersen at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL are at the forefront of efforts that will ensure Colorado’s babies receive the best care and most accurate results from the Pulse Ox test. Dr. Eichorst says they will be launching their own study within the next couple of months to determine healthy oxygen levels for newborns in higher elevations.

“The values determined by the American Academy of Pediatrics are at sea level. They do not take into account oxygen levels in higher altitudes. We are going to determine those values for higher elevations here in Denver and the mountain communities.”

200 newborns will be involved in the study with results expected within a few months. Once Dr. Eichorst and Dr. Pettersen have the data they will work with the State Department of Health to set recommended protocols for medical professionals at higher elevations. These oxygen saturation numbers will help determine additional testing for possible congenital heart defects before a baby even leaves the hospital. The goal is to have these new protocols complete by the end of 2012.

Mothers like Shelby Breazeale understand the importance of this testing all too well. Shelby’s son Aidyn was born just seven weeks ago. When he was born, Shelby said Aidyn cried twice and then—nothing. The nurses gave him CPR and a pediatrician intebated him immediately. They listened to his heart, knew he had a problem, and called AirLife to transport him immediately to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL in Denver. When pediatricians told Shelby Aidyn had a congenital heart defect, she was terrified.

“I freaked out, I burst into tears, I had never heard that term before. I would now tell expectant parents to learn about congenital heart defects and know that it’s ok. With the right treatment your child will be just fine,” Shelby says.

Four days later, Dr. Steven Leonard performed open-heart surgery to reconstruct Aidyn’s heart. He was diagnosed with Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA). Dr. Leonard is known nationally for his skill in open-heart surgeries on tiny babies. Shelby credits Dr. Leonard and his team for saving her son’s life. Aidyn is in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL and is doing well.

Shelby says she now knows more about congenital heart defects than she ever imagined and wants to help educate people about them. She says it’s very important to diagnose the problem as soon as possible and that’s why requiring tests like Pulse Ox at birth is so important.

“We are so thankful to have parents like Shelby willing to share their experience. It helps other families who may be going through the same thing. The more expectant parents who learn about congenital heart defects, the more lives we save.”

Dr. Washington says when you break down the facts; the need for the early detection of congenital heart defects is easy to see. Consider these statistics:

1. According to the United States Centers for Disease 4 Control and Prevention, more than 36,000 infants are born with congenital heart defects each year in the United States and 8,000 of those babies will die in their first year of life

2. Congenital heart defects are both the most common and the most lethal birth defects, affecting over 50,000 Colorado babies, children, and adults

3. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, congenital heart defects are the leading cause of death for infants born with a birth defect and a leading cause of infant mortality the world over, and the life expectancy and quality of life of the approximately 2 million Americans battling congenital heart defects is limited due to the medical needs of those affected by this disease

Dr. Washington, Dr. Eichorst, Shelby and her family are available for interviews about the resolution, Aidyn’s story, and Colorado’s Pulse Ox study. Contact us at the number below to schedule interviews. We look forward to speaking with you.

Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children congenital heart disease in newborns
February 24, 2012