Age at referral and mortality from critical congenital heart disease

David E Fixler, Ping Xu, Wendy N. Nembhard, Mary K. Ethen, Mark A. Canfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Newborn pulse oximetry screening is recommended to promote early referral of neonates with critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) and reduce mortality; however, the impact of late referral on mortality is not well defined. The purpose of this population-based study was to describe the association between timing of referral to a cardiac center and mortality in 2360 liveborn neonates with CCHD. METHODS: Neonates with CCHD born before pulse oximetry screening (1996-2007) were selected from the Texas Birth Defects Registry and linked to state birth and death records. Age at referral was ascertained from date of first cardiac procedure at a cardiac center. Logistic and Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate factors associated with late referral and mortality; the Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate 3-month survival. RESULTS: Median age at referral was 1 day (25th-75th percentile: 0-6 days). Overall, 27.5% (649 of 2360) were referred after age 4 days and 7.5% (178 of 2360) had no record of referral. Neonatal mortality was 18.1% (277 of 1533) for those referred at 0 to 4 days of age, 9.0% (34 of 379) for those referred at 5 to 27 days of age, and 38.8% (69 of 178) for those with no referral. No improvement in age at referral was found across the 2 eras within 1996-2007. CONCLUSIONS: A significant proportion of neonates with CCHD experienced late or no referral to cardiac specialty centers, accounting for a significant number of the deaths. Future population-based studies are needed to determine the benefit of pulse oximetry screening on mortality and morbidity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e98-e105
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Congenital heart disease
  • Epidemiology
  • Health policy and outcome research
  • Neonatal mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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