Heel Prick Test For Newborn Babies

Heel Prick Test For Newborn Babies

The heel prick test is a blood test - it involves collecting a sample of blood from your baby's heel 48 hours after their birth. The test is part of the Newborn Metabolic Screening Programme. Early detection and diagnosis means that treatment can start quickly, before a baby becomes sick. Metabolic disorders are hard to find without screening. 

National Screening Unit - Heel prick information for parents

6 minute video clip - heel prick information for parents

National Screening Unit video

Key points to remember about the heel prick test for newborn babies

  • the heel prick test is available to all New Zealand babies
  • the test involves collecting a sample of blood from your baby's heel 48 hours after their birth
  • the test is part of the Newborn Metabolic Screening Programme which detects rare but life-threatening metabolic disorders
  • early treatment of conditions can prevent potentially serious complications which can cause permanent damage or even death

Why does my newborn baby need a heel prick test?

Your newborn babys blood test (National Screening Unit)

The Newborn Metabolic Screening Programme detects rare but life-threatening metabolic disorders with a blood test (heel prick test) at 48 hours after your baby's birth. Since 1969, almost all babies in New Zealand have had this screening. Early diagnosis means that treatment can start quickly, before a baby becomes sick. Metabolic disorders are hard to find without screening. See the page about the heel prick test at the Newborn Metabolic Screening Programme website.

Check the Newborn Metabolic Screening Programme website for detailed information, including:

What are the conditions newborn babies are screened for?

The current conditions screened for are:

  • amino acid disorders (for example PKU and MSUD)
  • fatty acid oxidation disorders (for example MCAD)
  • congenital hypothyroidism (CH)
  • cystic fibrosis (CF)
  • congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH)
  • galactosaemia
  • biotinidase deficiency
  • severe combined immune deficiency (SCID)

If your baby has one of these disorders, you will receive information about the disorder and how to treat it from a paediatrician.

What if my baby is diagnosed with a metabolic disorder?

If your baby is diagnosed with a metabolic disorder, coping is an ongoing process. Everybody copes in a different way.

See Coping when your child has a diagnosis of a chronic illness or disability and Receiving a diagnosis for your child with special needs.

Where can I go for more information about metabolic disorders?

New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders (NZORD)

New Zealand's central starting point for information about rare disorders. The NZORD website is a useful source of information about resources available in the health and disability sector in New Zealand. See the section on patient services on the NZORD website.

Newborn Screening Information website (Hawaii)

Provides fact sheets on the metabolic disorders screened in the New Zealand Newborn Metabolic Screening Programme. It includes descriptions of each disorder and how they can be detected and treated. See the page on disorder fact sheets at the Newborn Screening Information website.

Starship Foundation and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand acknowledge the cooperation of the National Screening Unit in making this information available for families.

This page last reviewed 08 July 2019.
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