Newborn Screening Program

What Is Newborn Screening?

Currently, newborns in Wisconsin are screened for 46 disorders, including hearing loss and critical congenital heart disease (CCHD). The Department of Health Services (DHS) Newborn Screening Program's (NBS) role is to help ensure that the program succeeds in screening, diagnosing, and treating all Wisconsin newborns for certain conditions. The Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) is responsible for the laboratory component of newborn blood screening. The DHS Sound Beginnings: Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program promotes and supports universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) and follow-up services statewide. The SHINE (Screening Hearts in Newborns) Project has developed educational materials for hospitals and out-of-hospital health care providers about recommended screening protocols, equipment selection, data reporting, and other information to support the implementation of critical congenital heart disease screening.

Important Updates

Report Newborn Screening Status on Every Wisconsin Birth

The Department of Health Services Bureau of Community Health Promotion and the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene/University of Wisconsin-Madison have sent a letter concerning a new policy. The “Report Newborn Screening Status on Every Wisconsin Birth” policy is meant to ensure that all eligible newborns in the state have access to newborn blood, hearing, and critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) screening in the required timeframe. The letter has been sent to Hospital Administrators, Newborn Nursery Managers, Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU), Special Care Nurseries, Primary Care Providers, Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Wisconsin Guild of Midwives, and the Wisconsin Hospital Association. A copy of the letter is available for download at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/cyshcn/newbornscreening/joint-newborn-screening-card-policy.pdf (PDF, 54 KB) .

To accommodate this new policy, the Wisconsin Newborn Screening Blood Collection Forms (cards) have been revised to enable submitters to report a newborn's status as "not screened." The revised forms also expand CCHD screening data elements.  A sample of the revised Newborn Screening Blood Collection Form and instructions for completing the form are available on the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene (WSLH) Newborn Screening website (www.slh.wisc.edu/revised-newborn-screening-cards). New forms will be distributed in February 2015 and the full policy implemented as of July 1, 2015.

If you have questions or concerns about the revised Newborn Screening Blood Collection Forms or the new policy, please contact Dr. Mei Baker at the Wisconsin Newborn Screening Laboratory at 608-890-1796 or mwbaker@wisc.edu. Policy questions can also be directed to the Wisconsin Newborn Screening Program Coordinator, Ms. Tami Horzewski, at Tami.Horzewski@dhs.wisconsin.gov.

Why Is Newborn Screening so Important?

Newborn screening can save babies’ lives and help them begin life healthy. When newborn screening finds a condition, the baby can receive treatment right away to prevent health problems and even death. Affected babies may look perfectly normal at birth. Unless newborn screening is done, the condition may stay hidden and cause permanent damage to the baby. In Wisconsin, newborn screening is required by law in order to protect the health of babies (Statute 253.13) (Statute.253.115).

What Methods are Used to Screen?

For newborn blood screening, just a few drops of blood from your baby's heel are put onto a special test paper and sent to the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene to be tested. Accurate and gentle methods are available to screen newborn babies' hearing before they are discharged from the hospital. Using a non-invasive method, CCHD screening uses a pulse oximeter to test blood oxygen saturation levels. Newborn screening finds babies who may have a hidden disorder that needs early treatment.

What Are Hidden Disorders?

Hidden disorders are health problems that are difficult or impossible for you or your baby's doctor to find just by looking at your baby. If not treated, hidden disorders can lead to delays in development or possibly death. Hearing loss can be referred immediately to the people, programs and services needed by both baby and family at the earliest stage of development. Early treatment can help prevent or eliminate health problems or developmental delays.

Can I Say "No" to the Test?

As a parent, you may refuse newborn screening for your baby only if religious beliefs and practices or personal convictions do not allow this testing. If you refuse to have the test done, you may be asked to sign a paper stating that you refused to have your baby tested for these very serious disorders.

For more information and publications:

Hearing Screening Program

Blood Screening Program

Critical Congenital Heart Disease Screening Program

How to Nominate a Condition to the Newborn Screening Panel

Newborn Screening Committee Structure

Last Revised: May 19, 2015