Medwatch: Why newborn screenings are needed
LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - Within hours of babies being born, tests are done to detect things that aren’t noticeable at birth to make sure they’re healthy.
Connie Bond, the Nurse Manager at CCMH, said they do three types of screenings at the hospital. She said the tests look for things that can lead to developmental delays or even death in some cases. The first one is the newborn hearing screening.
“If babies truly have a hearing loss at birth, they’re going to be behind on their developmental milestones related to hearing,” she said. “So speech is a huge one.”
A test is done before they’re allowed to leave the hospital. If they don’t pass, parents have to take their newborn to a follow-up appointment.
“And if babies are truly deaf, we get those babies into the audiologist, and they want them for things like cochlear implants very, very early, so they’re not behind,” Bond said.
Another test that’s run is the congenital heart defects screen. Bond said this test is done 24 hours after birth. She said it lets them know how the heart is doing.
“Is the oxygen that’s going to the brain, is it the same level as the rest of the body? So, it’s just a pulse ox check on their foot and their hand,” she said. “So it’s relatively easy.”
The third and final test is what’s called the newborn screening.
“So, a lot of people will hear it called the PKU, but it’s actually a test that looks for 58 different things in the state of Oklahoma,” Bond said. “We get five dots of blood and see so many things, but a lot of it is related to how they’re breaking down acids.”
They have to be at least 24 hours and 1 minute old for this test.
“That gives them time to have eaten and start digesting their food,” she said. “If they’re not able to digest it correctly, that have a build-up of different types of acids that can lead to liver damage, brain damage and again just developmental delays.”
A few years ago, she saw the test come back irregular.
“The baby was still a patient and had been doing great, and then all of the sudden looked septic,” she said. “The baby looked like it had a heart condition. Everything we tested looked completely normal.”
They then got a call from the state alerting them about a flagged screening.
“And we all said that makes sense,” Bond said. “This baby is acting funny, and had we not known what that was, we wouldn’t have known how to treat it. We would’ve actually sent it to a different hospital if we hadn’t known what that was, so it’s life-saving.”
Bond said most parents won’t hear anything about their baby’s screening, but if they do, it’s important to get them looked at again.
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