Why is the newborn screening program important for babies being adopted internationally from Guatemala?

As a general rule of thumb, medical information and testing of children that are being placed for international adoption is limited.  While the newborn screening is not an essential test in order to make a decision about accepting a referral, it is another piece of medical information that can make the decision process a little bit easier. The newborn screen is a routine test performed in the United States on all newborn infants. 

The purpose of the newborn screening is to provide important information about the child’s health that you were even your doctor may not otherwise know about.  The screening programs identify different rare medical disorders such as rare metabolic conditions, endocrine problems like congenital adrenal hyperplasia, thyroid conditions.  The newborn screening is also suitable to screen for blood disorders such as sickle cell disease and other hemoglobinopathies as well as some infectious conditions like HIV infection.

From all the countries which I do pre-adoption medical evaluations for, Guatemala is the only country where the newborn screening tests seems to be routine.  In the United States every state has a newborn screening program but at each state screens for different conditions.  The New York State screening program can check for more than 40 different disorders.  Some of these conditions may be life-threatening and others may slow down the baby’s development.  Most infants that have one of these underlying conditions show no signs or symptoms of the conditions and they may seem very healthy in the immediate period after their birth.  Please be aware that the conditions that are checked during newborn screening are very rare and a majority of the babies have negative results.

The testing process is relatively simple. The tests are performed on a tiny sample of blood obtained by prick in the baby heal and applying the blood specimen to a special transport paper.  The sample is then sent to a reference lab for testing. The reference lab that I have seen performing newborn screening tests on babies adopted from Guatemala is a company called Pediatrix Screening. Your adoption agency should be able to help you to have this test performed.  If that is not possible you as a parent may visit the website www.pediatricx.org and purchase the newborn screening kit and have it sent to a medical professional caring for this infant.


If on a newborn screen the results return requiring a retest, this does not necessarily mean that the child has a disorder.  Retesting may be needed for a number of reasons.  The most common being at this first sample contained too little blood to complete all the tests,  in this does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with your child.  When one of the preliminary tests indicate the problem these results cannot be considered confirmatory until they are redone this would require a new specimen and you will need to have a physician evaluate the results.  This physician contact is important in order to determine whether the child needs immediate medical management while waiting for the retesting results.  Fortunately in my own general pediatric practice I have seen very few abnormal newborn screenings that had real medical conditions.  The vast extensive majorities were all false positive tests and when they were repeated they were normal.  In my international medical practice, obviously the volume of newborn screenings results that I receive are considerably less than in my general practice but fortunately I have only witnessed normal newborn screening results.

Written by George Rogu M.D.