Experts in the field of newborn screening say that turnaround time - how quickly a blood sample is obtained after birth and sent to the lab to be analyzed - is a key measure of a successful newborn screening program. Much of the time needed to complete a test occurs at the hospital.
Here are five questions parents should ask a hospital:
1.) When will the blood sample be taken?
Experts say that, ideally, it should be done between 24 and 48 hours after birth. That allows time for the food metabolism needed to produce the substances that can be picked up in the blood test.
2.) How long will the sample wait at the hospital before it is sent to the lab?
A sample should be sent within 24 hours after it is taken. In some states this is required by law. So, ideally, the baby’s sample should be sent to the lab within 72 hours of birth.
3). How will the sample be sent to the lab?
A daily courier or overnight delivery is optimal. Mailing the sample should be avoided if at all possible.
4.) How will I find out if my child tests positive for a disorder?
In most cases the lab will call the hospital or doctor, who then contacts the family. This should be done immediately if the disorder is one that can produce serious problems in the first few days of life.
5.) Will the lab process samples on the weekend?
Experts say labs should be open for processing samples that come in on Saturdays. Labs should also have weekend hours if there is a holiday that creates a three-day weekend. Labs for 10 states are open seven days a week. Results can be delayed if labs are open only five days a week, depending on which day the baby is born.