The conditions screened for by the newborn blood spot test vary widely around the world, with the number ranging from five to 60 on screening panels. Effective screening programmes can save lives, whereas ineffective programmes can do more harm than good—for example, through over diagnosis, the physical and psychological consequences of false positive test results, and opportunity costs for the healthcare system. It is not known whether the differences between countries result from genuine differences in disease prevalence or health care systems and priorities, or from differences in the evidence review process used to generate policy, in particular the use of systematic reviews.
The objective of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to understand whether international differences in recommendations of whether to screen for rare diseases using the newborn blood spot test might in part be explained by use of systematic review methods.
Website searches of 26 national screening organisations took place and two reviewers independently assessed whether the recommendation for or against screening included systematic reviews, as well as data on test accuracy, benefits of early detection, and potential harms of over diagnosis.
Association between use of systematic reviews and national policy recommendations on screening newborn babies for rare diseases: systematic review and meta-analysis by Taylor-Phillips S, Stinton C, Ferrante di Ruffano L appears in BMJ, 9 May 2018. Links to the abstract and further details can be found here.
Literature search pack
(PN186) Newborn blood spot screening | Abstracts (118) £9.95* This month’s latest literature search contains records for general articles on blood spot screening in newborn infants, including information on screening programmes, issues relating to screening, commentaries on its effectives, and guidance for parents and clinicians. It does not include information on methods and pain management in the infant during these tests (see PN100).