Many U.S. Newborns Missing Key Tests

Report finds 27 states fall short in screening infants for hidden disorders

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TUESDAY, July 12, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Dozens of U.S. states now have laws requiring expanded screening for specific disorders in newborns, but most infants in the country still do not receive the full panel of 29 tests recommended by experts, according to a March of Dimes report released Tuesday.

Screening is typically done by testing a few drops of blood taken from a newborn's heel. That blood sample is analyzed for indicators of a variety of disorders, such as metabolic conditions, that can be successfully managed or treated if diagnosed early.

The report said that, as of June 1, 2005, 23 states had initiated newborn screening programs designed to check for more than 20 of the 29 disorders recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics. Those screening programs cover about 38 percent of the approximately 4 million babies born each year in the United States.

Twelve states -- accounting for about 20 percent of babies -- require screening for between 10 and 20 disorders. Another 15 states plus the District of Columbia -- accounting for about 43 percent of U.S. newborns -- require screening for fewer than 10 disorders.

"Parents need to know that the extent of newborn screening for serious and treatable disorders depends entirely on the state in which their baby is born," Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes, said in a prepared statement.

"For infants affected with these conditions, the tests can mean the difference between life and death, or health and lifelong disability," Howse said.

In May of this year, the March of Dimes updated their policy to recommend the 29 tests, instead of the nine they previously recommended.

Last year, the March of Dimes reported that only 21 states mandated the nine recommended screening tests.

More information

You can learn more about newborn screening at the March of Dimes.

SOURCE: March of Dimes, news release, July 12, 2005

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