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Simple, painless test for newborn babies could become Wisconsin law

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Baby with Pulse Oximetry sensor on big toe. Photo: JenFu Cheng (Flickr). The new test screens newborns for heart defects.
Baby with Pulse Oximetry sensor on big toe. Photo: JenFu Cheng (Flickr). The new test screens newborns for heart defects.

MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- A simple test that can detect heart problems in newborn babies could be required by Wisconsin law soon. It’s Senate Bill 523 authored by Senators Jerry Petrowski of Marathon and Leah Vukmir from Wauwatosa. If approved, the new law would broaden the ability for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to require hospitals to administer the pulse oximetry test, measuring the amount of oxygen in the baby’s blood.

Petrowski says the non-intrusive test is performs the same measurement as a clothespin-like sensor used on a finger of an adult. “It’s really a very minor test, where they basically put a band-aid on the foot and then another one someplace else. It’s not drawing any blood. It’s basically monitoring the oxygen in the blood and being able to tell if there’s any heart defects.”

Petrowski says the simple and low-cost test can tell doctors what they can’t see about a baby’s heart, and can save lives. “Many times, a child has some type of problem, and it’s not detected, and it’s detected after they get home. This way if there is a problem, they’ll be able to detect it right away, and in many cases, we can surgically fix things now where many years ago, we couldn’t.”

The Senate Health Committee approved the bill unanimously Tuesday, and it’s scheduled for an Assembly committee vote today. Petrowski is optimistic the bill can get to the Governor’s desk for signature shortly.

(Our interview with Senator Jerry Petrowski covers this and other topics, and can be heard on our website, here.)

 

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