New pediatric echo cardiogram technology at Conway Regional Medical Center and a partnership with Arkansas Children’s Hospital will eliminate some unnecessary worry, time and financial burden for parents whose infants show signs of congenital heart disease.
The advantage of the technology and partnership with Children’s Hospital, said Arkansas Pediatrics Dr. Alan Lucas, is that a pediatric cardiologist will make a diagnosis on a newborn without the baby having to be flown via helicopter to the hospital in Little Rock.
The trip can cost as much as $5,000, according to Lucas.
On a baby’s second day of life, he or she is subjected to a pulse oximetry diagnostic test, which measures oxygen in blood and pulse rate.
If an infant fails the test, it is an indication that the baby may have congenital heart disease or critical congenital heart disease.
An echo cardiogram follows the failed test, and the resulting scan is sent to a pediatric cardiologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital who will evaluate the scan and ask for a follow-up evaluation, recommend a transfer via helicopter for immediate attention, or confirm that the baby is safe to remain in the nursery in Conway.
Scans are sent to Children’s Hospital using the Conway Regional Picture Archiving and Communications System via Arkansas E-Link, a broadband network with video and telehealth technology.
Lucas said Conway Regional’s nursery is one of 10 in the state equipped with the system.
About 1 percent of babies are born with congenital heart disease, Lucas said. The birth rate of about 1,800 babies born each year at Conway Regional indicates about 18 babies and families per year will benefit from a quicker and more cost-effective assessment.
Approximately four to six babies born at Conway Regional each year will be found to have critical congenital heart disease and will need to be seen by a pediatric cardiologist immediately, according to Lucas’ data.
"It’s a wonderful advance in technology to help us take care of newborns and diagnose critical congenital heart disease at an early stage," Lucas said.
Sonographer Susan Gates, who developed the program along with Lucas, said she hopes more people will become aware of the service that has been available since December.
She said an 11-year-old was scanned recently, saving his family a long wait to be seen at Children’s Hospital and time to worry over a potential problem.
"Though the numbers aren’t great, someone who is diagnosed earlier will be less sick. We’re able to more quickly answer if there’s anything to worry about," said Lucas.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)