Newborn screening tests look for serious developmental, genetic, and metabolic disorders so that important action can be taken during the critical time before symptoms develop. Most of these illnesses are very rare.
In the United States, individual states regulate newborn screening, so the diseases screened for vary considerably from state to state. Most states require three to eight tests, but organizations such as the March of Dimes and the American College of Medical Genetics suggest more than two dozen additional tests.
The most thorough screening panel checks for about 40 disorders. All 50 states screen for congenital hypothyroidism, galactosemia, and phenylketonuria (PKU).
Blood tests: A health care professional will prick the babyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s heel to obtain a few drops of blood. The blood is sent to a lab for analysis.
Hearing test: An audiologist will place a tiny earpiece or microphone in the infantĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s ear or stick electrodes on the babyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s head.
There is no preparation necessary for newborn screening tests. The tests are performed when the baby is between 24 hours and 7 days old, typically before the baby goes home from the hospital.
The baby will most likely cry when his or her heel is pricked to obtain the small blood sample. The hearing test should not cause the baby to feel pain, cry, or respond.
Screening tests do not diagnose illnesses. They identify which babies need additional testing to confirm or rule out illnesses. Good screening tests have a low false-negative rate (if the test is normal, the child should be healthy), but may have a high false-positive rate (as many affected children as possible should test positive, even if this means many healthy children also test positive).
If follow-up testing confirms that the child has a disease, appropriate treatment can be started right away, before symptoms appear.
Screening tests are used to detect a number of disorders, including:
See also: Hearing loss - infants
Normal values for each screening test may vary depending on how the test is performed.
Note: Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.
An abnormal result means that the child should have additional testing to confirm or rule out the condition.
Risks for the newborn heel prick blood sample include pain and possible bruising at the site where the blood was obtained.
Newborn testing is critical for the baby to receive treatment that may be life saving. However, not all disorders that can be detected by the screening tests can be treated.
AlthoughĂ‚Â states do not perform allĂ‚Â screening tests, parents can haveĂ‚Â additional tests done by qualified laboratories at large medical centers. Private laboratories also offer newborn screening. Parents can find out about extra newborn screening tests from their physician or hospital where the baby will be born, as well as through organizations like the March of Dimes.
Infant screening tests; Neonatal screening tests