Thursday, September 15, 2011

National Newborn Screening Awareness Month

Newborn Screening saves lives, prevents disabilities and saves money. In the last five decades, newborn screening has become a well-defined, nationwide early identification program. Every year, 4 million infants born in the United States are screened shortly after birth for hearing loss and certain genetic, endocrine, and metabolic disorders. Each year, approximately 12,000 infants will be identified with one of these disorders.

The goal of newborn screening is to identify infants who appear healthy at birth, but who may have one of these disorders which can cause severe illness or death. Through early identification and treatment, newborn screening provides an opportunity for significant reductions in morbidity and mortality while reducing health care costs associated with treatment of lifelong debilitating conditions.

Phenylketonuria, or “PKU” as it is commonly referred to, was the first newborn screening test ever developed using dried bloodspots. Screening for PKU has been in place since the 1960s. Screening programs are now testing for 30 disorders, and this number is expected to increase in the future as science and technology continue to advance. The majority of disorders identified through newborn screening require lifelong treatment. The most commonly detected disorders are cystic fibrosis (CF), congenital hypothyroidism (CH), and congenital hearing loss.

For more information about newborn screening in Maine, visit the Maine Newborn Bloodspot Screening Program