One foot at a time – Newborn screening

Electine Orido RN and Baby Cash

A quick pin prick to the heel of the foot, a small cry, a few drops of blood on card and you and your baby have taken an important step in keeping your child healthy – newborn screening.

Here in Arizona the newborn screening looks for 31 core disorders. In addition, we conduct a screening for hearing loss , for critical congenital heart defects and for jaundice. The list continues to expand as medical understanding grows.

Find out more about the Arizona Newborn Screening Panel

In July 2017, the State of Arizona Health Department added severe combined immunodeficiency, or SCID, to the list of conditions screened. While you may never have heard of SCID, a rare disorder affecting about one in 50,000 to 100,000 babies in the United States, you may have heard of the “Boy in the Bubble.” A young boy, David Vetter, brought this disease to notice when he survived for 12 years living in a plastic enclosure that excluded the everyday germs that generally kill affected infants in the first year of life. Generally, infants appear healthy at birth, but the lack of a functioning immune system makes them vulnerable to even everyday germs. Today, survival rates for children affected by SCID are much higher due to improved screening and treatment. If an infant receives a bone or cord blood transplant in the first three and half months of life prior to active infections, the survival rate can be as high as 94 percent.

But my baby looks healthy … Why every newborn needs newborn screening

We screen all babies because ALL babies are at risk, even if they look healthy. Most babies who are identified through screening have no family history of a disorder. The sooner a disorder is identified the quicker treatment can begin, which can prevent disability and even death.

What is involved in newborn screening?

Kassandra and baby Cash

1. Blood Test

At about 24 hours after birth, we start newborn screening with what is often called the heel-stick test.

Your baby’s heel will be cleaned and warmed. A quick pin prick allows five drops, yes just five drops, from your baby’s heel to be dropped onto a card with special filter paper to absorb the blood.

Once your baby’s details and your contact information are collected on the card it is sent off to the Arizona State Laboratory for testing.

Your child’s healthcare provider will be informed of normal or abnormal results. Be sure to ask your child’s provider for the test results if they do not volunteer them.

2. Pulse Oximetry

By using a sensor to detect low oxygen levels in the blood, we can identify babies who may have severe heart defects known as critical congenital heart disease. The pulse oximetry test is quick, easy and painless. We usually perform this screening test about 24 hours after birth. If a newborn’s oxygen level is below normal, your baby may need to have an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram). Unfortunately, the pulse oximetry screening is limited in that it won’t find all heart conditions.

3. Bilirubinometer

We assess all babies for jaundice using a special light meter, which calculates the level of bilirubin by analyzing how the light reflects off the skin. Because bilirubin levels, which cause the yellowing of the skin, peak between the second and fourth day after birth, your newborn’s health care provider should check for jaundice after release from the hospital. If jaundice is suspected, the level of bilirubin in the blood will be assessed too.

4. Newborn hearing screening

This is a simple, non-invasive hearing screening. If your baby appears to have a hearing issue during the initial screening the baby will be referred for auditory brainstem response and otoacoustic emissions testing. Your baby will be asleep during the ABR testing, and if the infant sleeps well, we usually give the results of the testing immediately following the test.

Whether you deliver with a midwife or obstetrician at TMC for Women we will take care of these critical newborn screenings. To find out more about our maternity services check out the free maternity services tour.

Find out more: FREE maternity services tour.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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