Newborn screening tests

The special care baby unit (SCBU) at the Royal Free Hospital offers a full range of newborn screening tests to make sure the babies on our unit are fit and healthy.

Newborn blood spot screening

Newborn blood spot screening is offered to all babies born in the UK  to help identify rare but potentially serious conditions. Most babies screened will not have any condition but, for the small numbers who do, the benefits of blood spot screening are enormous. 

How is the blood spot collected?

On the day of admission to the SCBU, on day five and at a corrected age of thirty six weeks, the nurse or doctor will prick your baby’s heel using a special device to collect some drops of blood (the blood spot) onto a card. The card is sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Screening for retinopathy of prematurity

Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye condition that affects the blood vessels of the retina. It can occur in very premature babies or those with a very low birth weight. The condition is usually very mild and settles on its own without the need for any treatment. 

If your baby requires screening for retinopathy of prematurity, the first examination will be carried out between four to six weeks of age by a specialist eye doctor, called an ophthalmologist. 

Baby brain development scans

Premature babies (those born at less than 32 weeks) are at an increased risk of bleeding in the brain. Ultrasound scans of the head may be performed to look at the structure of the brain and to see if there is any bleeding or other problems with the baby’s brain development.

The results of these scans will be explained to you by the medical team looking after your baby.