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Newborn Heel Stick Test: What Is It And How Is It Done?

newborn heel stick test

It is important to do the newborn heel stick test during your baby’s first days of life. Find out which diseases can be detected and why this is important!

As soon as the baby is born, several tests are done, including the newborn heel stick test. Despite the apprehension of seeing a newborn’s heel bleed, this procedure helps to ensure the health of the baby.

That’s right! This test can diagnose several rare diseases, allowing the family to begin treatment as soon as possible. This exam avoids the complications of diseases that can be diagnosed, allowing the child to live a better life.

Do you want to know how the newborn heel stick test works, what diseases it diagnoses, how it is performed, and its importance? Keep reading this post!

Why Does My Baby Need a Newborn Heel Stick Test?

The newborn heel stick test, or neonatal heel prick, should be performed on every newborn, along with some eye exams, heart exams, and a hearing screening

It is given 24 to babies 48 hours after birth, and some states require that they get tested again in one or two weeks. To check what tests are required by law or universally offered in your state, you can visit Baby’s First Test.

The heel stick test is an important preventive procedure, as it detects several conditions, depending on the state where you live. In the U.S., all states screen for galactosemia, hypothyroidism, sickle cell anemia, and phenylketonuria, but more than 60 diseases can be screened through this test, such as:

  • Biotinidase deficiency
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH)
  • Congenital toxoplasmosis
  • Aminoacidopathies
  • Primary immunodeficiencies
  • Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA)
  • Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS)
  • Lysosomal diseases

The laboratory test aims to detect metabolic, genetic, or infectious diseases. If the test shows any abnormalities, specific tests are performed to confirm the diagnosis.

How Is The Newborn Heel Stick Test Done?

As the name suggests, this test is done on the newborn’s heel. To collect blood, the doctor pricks the baby’s heel, an area that has a high concentration of blood vessels.

During the procedure, the doctor takes the child’s ankle and foot, makes a small puncture, and then collects a few drops of blood on filter paper. A good tip is to lift the baby and hold them upright, as if you were going to burp them after eating.


Why Is This Exam So Important?

As you have seen, the newborn heel stick test is mandatory, even if the family has no history of the diseases it can identify. This is because it is possible to detect abnormalities in the blood that indicate rare diseases.

Since many of these diseases can take a long time to show symptoms or have a slow evolution, having your baby undergo the procedure will allow you to start treatment promptly.

Having this diagnosis can prevent serious complications for your child, in organs like:

  • bones
  • respiratory system
  • heart
  • neurological system
  • joints

When they’re not identified in time, some diseases can affect the quality of life or cause death. By getting screened for these diseases, treatment can be started early, allowing your little one to live well; intervention begins before the disease worsens.

Detection Of Phenylketonuria

Take for example phenylketonuria, a hereditary disease known by the acronym PKU, which is characterized by being a metabolic defect. This means, there is an accumulation of the amino acid phenylalanine in the blood, which is toxic to the body and affects the central nervous system.

The first symptoms of PKU can be noticed around 6 months of age. Some of them are problems in psychomotor development, mental deficiency, and seizures.

If the newborn heel stick test is performed, phenylketonuria can be diagnosed early and specific treatment can be initiated, avoiding the typical symptoms of the disease. With PKU, therapy is based on a special diet.

It is necessary to avoid foods that contain phenylalanine, such as meats, eggs, and oilseeds. Due to this restriction in nutrition, it is recommended that a nutritionist monitors the child who has been diagnosed with the disease.

During the first days of your baby’s life, a series of medical tests must be carried out to ensure their health and quality of life. As shown here, the newborn heel stick test is a simple procedure that allows the diagnosis of rare diseases to initiate adequate treatment.

Now that you know what the newborn heel stick test is, how it is done, and why it is so important, take the opportunity to download the Kinedu app and access live and pre-recorded classes about baby’s health and development.

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