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Newborn Screenings
What tests are administered before your new baby is discharged?


May 2016

When parents are handed their newborn child in the hospital, they spend the first hours gazing at their babyís face and counting tiny toes and fingers. But within 24 hours of birth, newborns undergo some important screenings to diagnose hidden disorders or conditions not previously detected in utero.

So what can parents expect before their newborn is discharged from the hospital? According to Dr. Eduardo Delgado, a pediatrician with Columbia St. Maryís, newborn screenings in Wisconsin include hearing and congenital heart disease tests as well as a blood test that screens infants for 44 disorders, including 31 that are on the nationally recommended panel.

"All states have newborn screenings that test for rare diseases," says Delgado. "The number of diseases tested varies from state to state."

For the blood screening, a nurse pricks the babyís heel, then collects a few drops of blood on special test paper, which is sent to the state lab for testing. The test is used to help diagnose health problems like sickle cell anemia or congenital


"If there are any abnormalities, the babyís pediatrician is notified, and parents are consulted about next steps," explains Delgado.

If left untreated, these hidden conditions or disorders could result in serious health problems such as developmental delays, slow growth, brain damage or

even death.

Before leaving the hospital, babies also are screened for hearing. If babies do not pass their initial screening, they are retested before leaving the hospital. If they fail a second time, the pediatrician will likely refer parents to a specialist to determine the scope of hearing impairment.

"Before newborn hearing screens became state-mandated, parents and doctors wouldnít have discovered hearing loss until much later," says Delgado.

Newborns also undergo screening for congenital heart disease within the first 24 to 48 hours of life. Hospital staff use a pulse oximeter to measure the blood oxygen concentration. Low blood oxygen levels may indicate a serious heart defect or could be a sign of a serious infection or lung disease. Babies with abnormally low oxygen saturation are referred for more testing.

Although Delgado has yet to encounter parents who refused to have their newborn screened, he says with a growing population of parents who choose not to immunize, itís not beyond the realm of possibility.

"Iíve never seen it, but parents may refuse the newborn blood screening for religious reasons or personal convictions," he says. m



This story ran in the May 2016 issue of: