Newborn screening (also referred to as Newborn Metabolic Screening) refers to testing newborn babies for medical conditions before they leave the hospital. These conditions typically don’t show any symptoms in newborns, but if these conditions are not found and treated within the first days or weeks of life they can cause (depending on the disorder), severe lifelong illness, neurological damage resulting in severe mental and physical disability, and some babies will die. Early diagnosis and treatment can result in normal growth and development and prevent or reduce the severity of serious medical problems associated with these conditions.
A newborn screening test is performed by collecting five drops of blood from a newborn baby’s heel. This blood is sent to the Colorado State Laboratory for testing. In Colorado we screen newborns for 35 diseases.
Most newborns will have a normal newborn screening test. If a newborn screening test is “not normal,” it does not mean a baby has a disorder. It means the baby needs additional testing. Most babies with abnormal newborn screens who get this further testing will have normal results (that is, the baby will not have the disorder).
However, because there are no outward signs of these diseases, and the diseases are so serious, it is vitally important that all babies get a newborn screen and get further testing right away if their newborn screen is “not normal.”
If the newborn screening result is normal, this information is reported to the “submitter” of the specimen (a hospital or doctor) by letter. If the test result is not normal, the submitter of the specimen (a hospital or doctor) is notified immediately by phone, with instructions on what further testing the baby needs. Parents should follow their doctor’s instructions for further testing without delay!
The newborn screening test is safe and simple and is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Newborn Screening
Resources for Parents and Health Care Providers
Newborn Screening Laboratory - Lots of helpful information
Newborn Screening Parent Brochure (in English and Spanish)
March of Dimes - Search Newborn Screening
Newbornscreening.info - Disorder Fact Sheets for parents and for health care providers, as well as other resources (in English and Spanish)
Screening Testing - Supplies Order Form. For assistance if necessary, call 303-692-2425.
Newborn Screening Contact Database (for Health Care Providers) - The Newborn Screening Laboratory’s email database. Stay informed about upcoming newborn screening tests, specimen collection information, newborn screening training, price changes, billing information, etc.
Newborn Screening “ACT Sheets” (for Health Care Providers) - Immediate steps for health care providers to take when a newborn in their care has an abnormal newborn screen, for each disorder on the newborn screening panel
Newborn Screening Follow-up Program