Newborn tests, sceenings could save lives

A newborn baby is seen in this undated file photo.
January 18, 2014 11:58:16 AM PST
Every year, more than 4 million babies are born in the U.S. All of them are screened for certain health conditions, but the tests your baby receives depends on the state in which you live.

Five newborn tests that you should know about:

Today, Baby Gael, is happy and healthy, but just hours after he was born his parents got devastating news.

"It was really hard to hear," said Davis Villegas, Gael's dad. "I was just destroyed." Gaelhad a serious congenital heart defect and needed major surgery.

"It was the worst six hours I have ever been through," said the father.

The operation was a success, and Gael's parents feel lucky that a newborn screening test detected the problem before they even left the hospital.

"It can be dangerous and even life-threatening, if they are sent home without being diagnosed," said Dr. Gregory Perens, a pediatric cardiologist at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA.

Pulse oximetry takes just a few minutes and is the only screening for heart defects. But tests like this aren't mandatory everywhere. Each state screens for anywhere from four to 30 disorders.

The second test screens for sickle cell. It detects the blood disorder that occurs in about one in every 500 African-American births.

Next, the infant hearing screening is performed in most - but not all states. If yours doesn't offer it, get your baby screened within three weeks of birth.

The cystic fibrosis screening can help doctors detect and treat lung and nutritional problems sooner.

And the toxoplasmosis test detects an infection that can invade the brain, eye, and muscle. It affects one in one-thousand babies ? but less than a handful of states screen for it.

Baby Gael's parents are grateful that the newborn test picked up his problem before it was too late.

"Every day that we have him, and every month that he turns one more month, we are like, Oh we thank God that we have him," said the father.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently called for a more standardized newborn screening program. To find out what newborn illnesses your state screens for, go to www.babysfirsttest.org.


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