Experts say doctors aren't performing enough prenatal heart screenings


POSTED: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 9:00am

UPDATED: Friday, March 23, 2012 - 9:04am

Looking at six month old Spencer Gilman has undergone more surgeries than some people have in a life time.

That's because before he was even born, doctors found a defect in Spencer's heart.

"His bicuspid valve didn't form properly so essentially he has a three chambered heart instead of a four chambered heart," explained Spencer's mom, Katherine Gilman.

Spencer is one of the lucky ones.

Doctors were able to identify the condition with his mother's 21 week pregnancy ultrasound.

So just days after he was born, surgeons were prepared to fix the valve.

The first of three surgeries to prepare his heart.

"If we have a baby come to us soon enough and it's recognized early enough before they get sick, most of the heart diease we take care of have great outcomes," stated Dr.Philip Spevak, Pediatric Cardiologist.

Dr. Philip Spevak specializes in pediatric cardiac imaging at John Hopkins Children's Center.

He says hundreds of babies born with heart defects every year. Only half will be diagnosed before they leave the hospital.

If they are already sick they can end up with brain damage, organ failure or death.

Spevak said the first step is doing a prenatal ultrasound exam.

Other measures include educating doctors about symptoms, giving newborns the Pulse Oximetry test, a tool that measures the blood oxygen level, which can indicate whether the heart is pumping properly.

Spencer is expected to make a full recovery.

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