Since it’s all about affairs of the heart, Valentine’s Day is also “Congenital Heart-Defect Awareness Day,” and a reminder to screen newborns. Blank Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Deb Bixler says all babies born at the Des Moines center get a newborn exam. Doctors listen to the sound of the heart, look at the baby’s color and check pulses all over the body. If they find something abnormal they may do an EKG or echo-cardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart. Doctor Bixler says newborn screening is vital for all babies, and it’s not costly or harmful. She says it’s not uncommon to find some anomaly, but IS uncommon to find a serious problem. Some heart conditions are because of the changes a baby goes through in its first hours, and simply clear up in a short time. The doctor says occasionally a sicker baby is referred to a neonatologist or a cardiac surgeon. Bixler says doing nothing is the best option, if it’s a temporary adjustment to being born, or a small hole in the heart that will close in the child’s first few hours of life.
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