Starting on this Valentine’s Day and from now on, a new type of test for heart defects will be performed on every child born at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Jeffrey Segar, director of the hospital’s neonatal unit, says the screening will find a potential problem early.

Dr. Segar says, “This is screening for certain types of critical, congenital heart defects that often go undetected within the first couple days of life, but can become very apparent towards the end of the first week of life and even possibly severe enough to lead to an infant’s death.”

He says the new tests can be performed right in the nursery and they’re quick and painless.

“This is done by placing a couple of sticky strips, like bandaids, on the baby’s hand and foot,” Segar says. “A small red light on the instrument measures the amount of oxygen that’s in the baby’s blood.”

About one in every hundred babies born in Iowa may have a heart defect that’s not immediately obvious.

“Throughout the United States, there’s about 5,000 babies every year born with the types of congenital heart defects that this screening will detect,” Segar says. “A good number of these are detected even before that baby is born by fetal ultrasounds, but probably anywhere from 25 to 50% of them are not.”

Since it involves time and resources, there will be a charge for the screening, though Segar says it will be “minimal.”