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cystic fibrosis screening for newborns

Each baby born in a U.S. hospital is given a blood test as part of this country’s Newborn Screening (NBS) Program. The goal of this test is to identify whether the baby has certain health conditions, including cystic fibrosis. If identified early, many of these conditions can be treated before they cause serious health problems.

The newborn screening involves drawing a small amount of blood from the baby’s heel on his or her first day of life. If the screening results indicate a possible problem, the baby’s primary care physician will contact the parents to let them know.

A “positive” result for cystic fibrosis does not necessarily mean that your child has CF. Rather, it means that further testing is needed.

If your child tests positive for CF, you will receive a call from one of the state’s six hospitals that provides follow-up testing. If you live closest to Dayton Children’s, you will receive a call from Leora Langdon, RN, CPNP, the Dayton Children’s CF newborn screening coordinator. Leora will help you schedule an appointment at the hospital’s CF Center.

follow-up testing at Dayton Children’s

During the appointment, your baby will undergo a sweat chloride test. This painless test involves collecting sweat from your baby’s skin and analyzing it for salt content (people with CF have increased levels of salt in their sweat). If the infant does not produce enough sweat during the test, it may have to be repeated.

We will review the results of the sweat chloride test with you as soon as they are available, typically within minutes. You also will meet with a genetics counselor for further information. All of this usually takes place on the same day.

what do results of the sweat chloride test mean?

The sweat chloride test has three possible outcomes.

  • A positive test result means that the child has CF. When this is the case, one of the physicians at our CF Center likely will be available to meet with parents the same day to help them begin learning about their child’s condition and treatment options.
  • A negative test result means the child does not have CF, but is probably a CF carrier. In this case, our team, along with the genetics counselor, will talk to parents at the appointment about what this means.
  • A borderline sweat chloride test result means the salt content is elevated, but is below the level needed to diagnose CF. Further testing may be needed.

We know that when a newborn screening suggests that your child may have cystic fibrosis, it can be a stressful and uncertain time. Our team is dedicated to helping you find answers as quickly as possible and, if needed, providing your child with the best possible care in the years to come.