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 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.
Newborns routinely receive a simple heel stick within the first 24 to 48 hours after they are born. 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 infants for hearing disorders and critical congenital heart disease using methods other than dried blood spots.
When a newborn tests positive for any condition, the parents are informed that their infant has an "out of range" test result on one of the conditions screened. This means that follow-up testing is needed immediately to discover if the infant actually has the condition. In most cases, an out-of-range result does not mean the infant has the condition upon further testing.
If the condition is confirmed, however, referral to an appropriate specialist and beginning of treatment are the next steps.