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How are my newborn’s screening results used?

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After a newborn is screened, parents may not hear anything at all about the results. In fact, most parents do not. This usually means that the child’s tests did not detect any of the conditions screened for—or, as the child’s health care provider might say, the results were "negative" or "in-range." Parents with concerns should feel free to contact their physician and ask about the results. Most states notify parents only when the results are out of range for a particular condition.1

Out of Range Results

If the screening detects one or more conditions, the result is "positive" or more accurately, "out of range." Your child’s health care provider or someone from the state health department will notify you, usually within 2 to 3 weeks.

A positive result does not mean your child definitely has the condition detected. Sometimes, the tests produce a "false positive," meaning that even though the test result was positive, your infant does not actually have the disease.

If the test result is positive, it is very important that your infant receives additional testing right away. Your child’s health care provider will perform a diagnostic (pronounced dahy-uhg-NOS-tik) test to determine whether your baby actually has the condition. Screening tests and diagnostic tests are not the same tests. If your baby is diagnosed with a condition, his or her health care provider and other providers will recommend a course of treatment.

Baby’s First Test External Web Site Policy provides a list of the conditions screened for in the newborn screening panel for most states. This list includes symptoms of each condition and the test(s) used to diagnose a condition or confirm a positive screening result.

The Importance of Following Through

Newborn screening is used to test for serious medical conditions. If not treated, some of these conditions can cause lifelong health problems; others can cause early death. If your child’s health care provider or the state health department calls you about your infant’s newborn screening test, it is important to follow up quickly. Call them back and follow their instructions to get care for your baby.

Newborn screening makes early diagnosis possible so that treatment can begin immediately—before serious problems can occur or become permanent. This approach helps to ensure the best possible outcomes for your baby.

  1. Baby’s First Test. (2012). Responding to results. Author: Washington, DC. Retrieved May 14, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]

Last Reviewed: 04/12/2013
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