A new study has outlined the importance of conducting a simple blood test on newborns to ascertain congenital heart problems which can effecively save thousands of lives.
According to study's authors, routine screening of blood oxygen levels before discharge from hospital improves the detection of life threatening congenital heart disease in newborns and save lives.
The study has been published on the online British Medical Journal.
Between one and two babies per 1,000 live births enter the world with an immediately life-threatening heart condition - due to a foetal blood vessel remaining open - and current screening techniques fail to detect the abnormality in many newborns.
But the introduction of a pulse oximetry screening procedure - lasting around five minutes - could improve the detection of critical congenital heart disease.
Pulse oximetry screening is a fast and non-invasive procedure to measure the concentration of oxygen in the blood of newborns using a sensor placed on a hand, and in this study on a foot as well, for a few minutes before the baby leaves hospital.
A low concentration of oxygen could signal a heart problem and would require further investigation.
To reach the conclusion, Professor Ostman-Smith and colleagues at the Queen Silvia Children's Hospital and Sahlgrenska Academy of Gothenburg University in Sweden screened nearly 40,000 babies born between July 1st 2004 and March 31st 2007.
The introduction of pulse oximetry screening in the West Gotaland region improved the total detection of duct dependent heart disease to 92 per cent, a significant increase on the 72 per cent detection rate in regions not using the screening technique.
The risk of leaving hospital with an undiagnosed duct dependent circulation was therefore eight per cent in West Gotaland compared to 28 per cent in the other regions.
The authors conclude: "Such screening seems cost neutral in the short term, but the probable prevention of neurological morbidity and reduced need for preoperative neonatal intensive care suggest that such screening will be cost effective long term."