Information for Parents

NJ CCHD Screening Reference Articles

  • Evaluation of critical congenital heart defects screening using pulse oximetry in the neonatal intensive care unit published in the Journal of Perinatology. Read the article and Key Findings

Critical Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital Heart Defects occur when a baby’s heart or blood vessels do not form properly during the pregnancy.  Heart defects are the most common birth defect.  Most babies are born with normal hearts, but approximately 9/1,000 are found to have some form of heart defect.  There are many types of heart defects ranging from mild to severe or critical.  Approximately 25% of babies with heart defects have a critical condition.  A critical congenital heart defect (CCHD) requires prompt diagnosis and treatment for the best outcome.  Babies with undetected critical congenital heart defects are at risk for death or significant disability.  
Screening for CCHD in New Jersey

In August 2011, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to implement mandated newborn pulse oximetry screening based on legislation P.L. 2011, c.074 (A3744). Birthing facilities are required to perform pulse oximetry screening a minimum of 24 hours after birth on every newborn in their care. In September 2011, the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary's Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children (SACHDNC) was approved, and CCHD screening using pulse oximetry was added to the Recommended Uniform Screening Panel (RUSP) in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, and other leading professional organizations have endorsed this recommendation.



Importance of Screening for CCHD

Newborns with heart problems can look healthy.  Screening can identify some infants with CCHD before they get sick or show signs of heart problems.  The screening is done as a simple bedside test using pulse oximetry.  A small sensor is placed on a baby’s right hand and one foot to measure the oxygen saturation level in the blood.  Infants who do not pass the screening receive further testing to determine if there is a problem.  Those who are found to have CCHD can start receiving care right away.

Signs of Heart Problems in Newborns

Not all serious heart defects are picked up with pulse oximetry screening.  It is possible for a baby to pass the screening test and still have a CCHD. Some babies may not show signs or symptoms until later.  Signs of heart problems in infants include sweating around the head during feeding, slow growth, poor weight gain, fussiness, fast breathing, and bluish or pale skin color.  Parents and care givers are advised to seek prompt medical attention for infants who shows these signs and other changes in the way the baby looks or acts.

More information about congenital heart defects and screening is available at the following sites:

For questions about CCHD screening in New Jersey contact:

Diane Driver, MSN., RN

Nursing Consultant
Newborn Screening and Genetic Services
Special Child Health and Early Intervention Services
Division of Family Health Services 
New Jersey Department of Health
PO Box 364
Trenton, NJ 08625-0364

OFFICE/CELL 609-913-5439
MAIN 609-292-1582
FAX 609-943-5752




Last Reviewed: 5/2/2023