Newborn screening typically consists of a blood test and a hearing test. First, hospital staff fill out a newborn screening card with the infant’s vital information—name, sex, weight, date and time of birth—and the date and time of the blood collection. Part of the card consists of special absorbent paper used to collect the blood sample.1
After warming and careful sterilizing of the infant’s heel, blood is taken through a "heel stick." The absorbent portion of the screening card is then placed in contact with the blood drop. This procedure is repeated with a series of new drops of blood until all the printed circles on the card contain a blood sample. These blood samples are used to conduct the screening tests, which are done in carefully controlled high-volume clinical laboratories.
Hospital staff typically use one of two methods for the hearing test. Both are quick (5 to 10 minutes) and safe.1
In some cases, hospital staff will perform pulse oximetry to measure how much oxygen is in the infant’s blood. Pulse oximetry is usually performed after the infant is 24 hours old. Hospital staff place a sensor on the infant’s skin for a couple of minutes, and the sensor measures the level of oxygen in the blood through the skin.
Low blood oxygen can indicate that a newborn has heart problems. Pulse oximetry can help identify infants with a condition called critical congenital (pronounced kuhn-JEN-i-tl) heart disease (CCHD).1 Annually, CCHD accounts for 24% of all infant deaths that are due to birth defects. This type of screening can identify infants who need to be seen by a heart specialist and receive lifesaving care.
Some states require a second blood test that repeats the initial set of screenings.
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