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Newborn Screening: Overview

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Newborn screening programs across the United States currently screen more than 4 million infants per year. This public health program has saved countless lives through the early identification of infants who often appear healthy but who are at risk for disorders for which early interventions and treatments have the potential to save lives and improve the quality of life for children and their families.

After babies are born, they routinely receive a simple heel stick within the first 24 to 48 hours of life. A few drops of blood are collected on filter paper card; from those dried blood spots, states routinely screen newborns for at least 30 congenital disorders. States also screen newborns for hearing disorders and critical congenital heart disease using methods other than dried blood spots.

The NICHD has been committed to research related to the screening of newborns since the Institute’s early days, with notable success. Visit the Brief History of Newborn Screening section for more information. NICHD research on newborn screening seeks to:

  • Improve existing screening techniques and technologies or develop new ones.
  • Expand the number of conditions for which screening tests are available.
  • Develop new treatments and disease-management strategies for conditions that can be detected through newborn screening but for which treatment is not yet available.
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