The latest devices used to detect critical congenital heart disease in newborns have been installed in some hospitals across the UAE by the Ministry of Health and Prevention.
Nine hospitals will be equipped with the fully automated device that will be tied to the patient’s electronic file, leaving no chance of human error. The technology called Eve on Rad-97 Pulse Co-Oximeters from MASIMO is the latest worldwide.
The device automatically screens newborns and immediately detects if there is a defect. The file is then uploaded to the database and follow-up protocol procedures are taken.
The programme was inaugurated at the Sharjah Training and Development Centre by Dr Yousif Al Serkal, assistant undersecretary of the hospital sector, who said the aim was for all affected infants to receive appropriate testing, counselling and treatment.
While all hospitals in the UAE screen babies at birth for heart defects, the nine hospitals will be the only ones in the country with such a comprehensive system linked to a single electronic database.
Dr Al Serkal said the programme is crucial for reducing infant mortality and morbidity rates in babies with heart malformations. It also aims to ease the financial, social and psychological burden on patients and their families that would be avoided with prohibitive surgeries.
He said that the ministry proposes to set up a database of children with congenital heart defects and develop clinical performance indicators to monitor the progress of the programme.
The ministry will train nurses to use the new device and system. Educational bulletins will be distributed in the newborn delivery department to the medical staff and parents, explaining the importance of screening.
The screening takes three minutes and is done before the babies leave hospital.
Global statistics show that congenital heart disease is a common birth defect, affecting approximately eight in 1,000 babies. Failure to detect critical congenital heart disease can lead to critical complications that can lead to death.
Dr Kiran Damera, head of the neonatology department at Burjeel Hospital, said screening helped detect around three to four cases of babies born with heart defects.
"Screening is done routinely at most hospitals in the world and is life-saving." The cases that have been detected have been referred to Sheikh Khalifa Medical City for surgery.
The screening process in simple and covered by insurance, he said.
The oxygen level in a baby's blood is measured and if it falls below a certain percentage then it is indication that the newborn suffers from a heart defect.
While screening does not detect all defects, with many developing later in life, he said that along with prenatal scans, a wide range of heart defects can be detected and resolved before leading to complications.
The number of babies born with heart defects in the UAE match up with intentional standards, Dr Damera said.
The new screening programme was approved by several scientific organisations including the American Association of Pediatrics.
"It is already being implemented in many countries of the world, such as the United States, Sweden, Germany and Denmark,” Dr Al Serkal said.
“With MOHAP adopting this programme, UAE has also taken its place among developed countries that provide CCHD screening for newborns.”