Expanded Screening of Newborns

It's called a 'heel stick,'and every newborn gets one. If Jacob Riley had been born before Wednesday, he would have been screened for seven disorders, but for his birthday, he will be screened for 26.

Nursery nurse manager at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital, Glenda Webb said, "It's mostly endocrine tests and metabolic disorders, and some congenital disorders."

They're the kind of disorders that Jacob's pediatrician, Dr. Amy Huggins,  would rather prevent than treat. "These can make kids pretty ill if we don't recognize them, so, a lot of times, it's just a formula change or dietary modification we add."

Charles and Julie Akers are getting to know their new daughter from head to foot.   The band aid on Olivia's tiny heel reminds her parents everything is being done to rule out certain inheritable and other disorders. Akers believes, "Information is power, and the more you know, the more you can attack whatever problem there might be." Early detection began early in Julie's pregnancy. "We just had the normal 28-week testing, but we did research our family background. The doctor asked us to tell her what we might need to look for." Luckily, the Akers don't anticipate any problems.

The tests not only benefit the child, but also all Texans. Late detection can lead to expensive long term care. The screenings can, "prevent serious complications such as growth problems, developmental delays, deafness or blindness, mental retardation, seizures, or early death," said Dr. Charles Bell, DSHS Acting Commissioner.

There may be one drawback. False positives are likely to increase in number. "However, the benefit in the long run is that we'll be catching those kids that actually do have the illness, and it's easy enough to do a test to rule something out if we do get the abnormal screening results," said Huggins.

House Bill 790, passed by the Texas Legislature in 2005, mandated that DSHS screen for additional disorders recommended by the American College of Medical Genetics as funding allows.

By law, two screenings are required of newborns, so it's very important for the parents to follow up with the doctor. The appointments are already made for Olivia and Jacob.

Information about the DSHS Newborn Screening Program and the disorders covered are available online at www.dshs.state.tx.us/newborn.