Screening Newborns for Congenital Hypothyroidism in Georgia
In April 2007 the Rostropovich-Vishnevskaya Foundation launched a nationwide newborn-screening project to detect congenital hypothyroidism (TSH) in Georgia. The aim of the project is to prevent mental retardation and growth failure caused by the late detection and treatment of this disorder. The Georgian Ministry of Health (MOH) took on the full responsibility of funding and carrying out the TSH screening program in Georgia in 2010. When the MOH took over the program, nearly 200,000 newborns had been screened for TSH, of which approximately 700 newborns were diagnosed with a high level of TSH and were referred to the State hospitals for confirmatory testing and further treatment supervised by state hospitals.
Though RVF’s role in the program has come to an end, the MOH continues to sustain the screening program, under which the entire birth cohort (approximately 48,000 babies a year) are tested for hypothyroidism. All newborns are tested within four days of birth to determine the quantitative measurement of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, TSH, in their blood.
Results of screening tests are reported to the State United Social Insurance Fund which notifies the care-takers of newborns affected with hypothyroidism. The Insurance Fund works with these caretakers to insure newborns receive the State-funded treatment which prevents the neurological and growth impairments of the disease.
Until recently the treatment was ineffective due to late clinical diagnosis and subsequent late therapy. Fortunately, with the present opportunity to identify almost all newborns with hypothyroidism shortly after birth, mental retardation and growth failure can be effectively prevented. The number of children who benefit from this program is quite high, as recent statistics show that one out of every 400 newborns is has hypothyroidism.
Recognizing the importance of national screening for congenital hypothyroidism, the Government of Georgia began providing full financing for the program in July 2010.