The arrival of a newborn brings excitement and wonder. New parents have many questions about their young infant. The first question I get asked is, "Is my infant healthy?" While many problems can be detected during a physician's examination in the hospital, there are many medical conditions that do not become evident until days, weeks or even months after a child's birth. Fortunately, many of these conditions can be treated or managed if detected early.
All infants born in the state of Tennessee are given a test known as the newborn screening test. In Tennessee, the screening test identifies more than 60 conditions and is frequently modified as new screenings become available. When an infant is a day old, a few small drops of blood are collected and sent on special test material to the state lab. Within a few days of performing the test, the infant's parents as well as pediatrician receive notification of all normal as well as abnormal results. Doctors can then begin treatment or refer infants to specialty doctors. It is important to know results as soon as possible so that management can begin quickly.
Two other screening tests are performed on all infants before they leave the hospital. One is a heart screening that measures an infant's blood pressure as well as the amount of oxygen in the blood. The goal of this test is to identify infants with problems that need to be managed by a heart doctor. The other test evaluates infant hearing. There are a couple of ways in which hearing can be measured. An abnormal result on this test should be repeated when the infant is 4-6 weeks old. Persistent abnormal results need follow up with an audiologist, or hearing specialist.
Like new parents, I as a pediatrician, want all infants to be as healthy as possible. By performing these screening tests, we can ensure that those infants with specific problems can be managed appropriately and help them live to their full potential.
Dr. Andrea Goins
Medical Director, Newborn Nursery
Children’s Hospital at Erlanger