Pulse Oximetry IDs Critical Congenital Heart Defects

High specificity, moderate sensitivity, and low false-positive rate in asymptomatic newborns

WEDNESDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- Pulse oximetry has high specificity, moderate sensitivity, and low false-positive rates for detecting critical congenital heart defects in asymptomatic newborns, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis published online May 2 in The Lancet.

To investigate the accuracy of pulse oximetry for detecting critical congenital heart defects in asymptomatic newborns, Shakila Thangaratinam, Ph.D., of the Queen Mary University of London, and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 552 studies. Thirteen eligible studies involving data from 229,421 newborns were identified and meta-analyses were conducted.

The researchers found that the overall sensitivity of pulse oximetry was 76.5 percent and specificity was 99.9 percent for detection of critical congenital heart defects. The false-positive rate was 0.14 percent and was dependent on the time of the test. If performed after the first 24 hours from birth, the false-positive rate was 0.05 percent, compared with 0.50 percent if performed within the first 24 hours from birth (P = 0.0017).

"The findings of this meta-analysis provide compelling evidence for introduction of pulse oximetry as a screening method in clinical practice," the authors write. "The sensitivity of the test is higher than present strategies based on antenatal screening and clinical examination, and the false-positive rate is very low, especially when done after 24 hours of birth."

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