The number of infant cardiac deaths decreased more than 33 percent in eight U.S. states that implemented mandatory policies to screen newborns for the critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) from 2007 to 2013.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), congenital heart defects (CHDs) are conditions that are present at birth and can affect the structure of a baby' s heart and the way it works.
They are the most common type of birth defect. CHDs affect nearly 1 percent of, or about 40,000, births per year in the United States. About 25 percent of babies with a CHD have a critical CHD.
During 1999 to 2006, there were 41,494 deaths related to CHDs in the United States. This means that CHDs were either the main cause of death or contributed to death in some way.
In 2011, critical congenital heart disease was added to the U.S. Recommended Uniform Screening Panel for newborns, according to the research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association network.
As of June 2013, eight states had implemented mandatory screening policies, five states had voluntary screening policies, and nine states had adopted but not yet implemented mandates.
After states implemented these policies, there was an absolute decline in early infant deaths from critical congenital heart disease of 3.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared with prior periods and with states lacking such requirements, according to the new research, conducted by Rahi Abouk, PhD, of Cotsakos College of Business in Wayne, New Jersey, and colleagues.
In addition, deaths from other or unspecified cardiac causes decreased as well, according to the research.
"More families are able to celebrate special milestones in a child's life thanks to the early identification and treatment of heart defects," CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., was quoted as saying in a news release. "Screening newborns for critical congenital heart disease in every state, tribe, and territory will save lives and help babies thrive."
However, estimates of death rates were imprecise because of the small number of deaths and the small number of states with fully implemented screening mandates.
"Retrospective evaluations of regulatory policies are important to validate the projected benefits of policies," Abouk and colleagues wrote.
"In addition, lessons learned from policy evaluations in one country can inform policy decisions in other countries. In particular, the findings have implications for countries that are considering possible adoption of a policy to routinely screen newborns for critical congenital heart disease."