Newborn screening is a series of tests done for almost all newborn babies. Typical newborn screening programs include a blood test (often called the PKU test) and a hearing screen. A car seat test may be included for smaller babies.
If your baby was in the NICU, the newborn screening may be a little different. The hearing screen may be more thorough because premature babies and other NICU patients are at risk for certain types of hearing loss. The PKU test may be repeated because NICU procedures can interfere with results. Special discharge equipment such as apnea monitors may be used for the car seat test.
The PKU test, more accurately called the newborn screening blood test, looks for many different disorders in newborn babies. Common NICU interventions and preemies' immaturity may interfere with test results, so NICU patients may need to be tested more than once.
The newborn hearing test screens for hearing problems in newborn babies. Premature babies and other NICU patients are at risk for certain types of hearing loss, so they may receive a different type of hearing test or may need to have the hearing test repeated after NICU discharge.
A car seat test is recommended for all premature babies, who may be too small to fit safely in a car seat or who may not be stable enough to sit in a semi-upright position for long periods of time. This non-invasive test makes sure that babies who were born early or very small are able to sit in a car seat without any episodes of bradycardia, apnea, or desaturation.