Every year over 10,000 Montana newborns are screened prior to hospital discharge for genetic and metabolic conditions through the Montana Public Health Laboratory as part of a process called newborn screening. For babies who test positive for one of these conditions, rapid identification and treatment makes the difference between health and disability -- or even life and death.
The newborn screening program is authorized in State Statute (Montana Code Annotated 50-19-203) and by Administrative Rule (ARM 37.57.3: Infant Screening Tests and Eye Treatment)
The current menu of screening tests performed is based on the recommendations of the US HHS Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children. In addition, a chart of conditions, testing platforms, normal ranges, and testing limitations can be found here. NOTE: This chart is for informational purposes only; it is not intended as a diagnostic tool.
Information on pricing of the newborn screen, as well as collection and shipping information, is in our Montana Laboratory Services Manual, located on our website: https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/LaboratoryServices/PublicHealthLabTesting
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Montana Public Health Laboratory is still performing newborn screening; timing prescribed in Montana Administrative Rules still applies.
Filling Out Newborn Screening Forms
Correct data submission is vital for the health and safety of Montana's newborns. Not only is certain data required by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) for laboratory testing, some of the data on the forms, such as birth weight and gestational age, is needed for accurate reporting of screening results. For an explanation of the requested data, please see this guide.
Unsatisfactory Newborn Screening Samples
Unsatisfactory newborn screening samples are not tested at the Montana Public Health Laboratory, due to the possibility for erroneous results that may cause unnecessary panic. There are several reasons a newborn screening sample may be found unsuitable for testing, most commonly due to clotted or layered blood specimens. This poster describes the problems with some dried blood spot samples, what causes them, and how to prevent them.
MTPHL will call submitting facilities when samples are unsuitable for testing, and a repeat sample should be collected within three days of notification, per ARM 37.57.316. If a baby has a condition on the newborn screening panel, a delay in submission of a quality sample can be life-threatening!
Newborn Screening Quality Indicators
To ensure the best possible outcomes, the MTPHL has just recently begun monitoring the following quality indicators. As part of quality improvement, each birthing facility receives a quarterly report of their performance in these quality indicators.
- Time from birth to collection of initial screening specimen (Target 24 - 48 hours)
- Time from collection of initial screening specimen to delivery in the MTPHL (Target 3 days)
- Time from delivery to result (Target 5 days)
- Percent of specimens received with missing critical information (Target less than 3%)
- Percent of specimens submitted that are satisfactory for testing (Target is greater than 97%)
One recommendation is that each newborn's screening results are on the baby's chart prior to the first well child checkup. If the results are not present, a copy can be obtained by contacting the MTPHL Newborn Screening Supervisor, email Angela Dusko, or call 406-444-3040.
For more information on Montana's Newborn Screening program, including hearing and congenital heart disease, visit the Children's Special Health Services website, https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cshs/NewbornScreeningPrograms.aspx.