Sometime during first few days of life, a doctor or nurse will prick baby's heel to test his blood. For the very rare child who can't break down fats, sugars, or proteins because of a metabolic disorder -- a problem with the body's chemistry -- newborn blood screening tests can prevent serious complications and even death.
Newborn screening tests aim to detect treatable metabolic disorders. Most states today screen for three to eight disorders. They use a relatively new technique in which two instruments called spectrometers sort and weigh the molecules in the blood sample. By studying these measurements, scientists can detect abnormalities and diagnose metabolic disorders before a child falls ill.
For a disorder to be screened:
Your doctor or your state's department of health can tell you which tests will be given to your baby. These are the diseases usually tested for:
Blood tests aren't the only important kind of screening for newborns. Every baby should have a thorough physical examination in his first 24 hours to screen for problems such as heart murmurs, hearing problems, developmental hip dislocations, rare tumors such as retinoblastoma, and many others that are important to discover early.
Some states also test for:
According to the March of Dimes:
Reviewed 11/02 by Elizabeth Stein, CNM
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.