Objective: To determine if selective newborn cord blood testing (NCBT) could contain costs without increasing morbidity of hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN).
Design: A national telephone survey confirmed the common practice of routine blood type and Coombs' NCBT. Two 12-month study arms, retrospective and prospective, were conducted. Hemolytic disease of the newborn was studied retrospectively under an unrestricted NCBT policy. Then, HDN was studied after a policy change that restricted NCBT to patients in newborn intensive care units and normal newborns with clinical jaundice or Rh-negative mothers, and/or positive maternal antibody screenings, or unavailable maternal blood testing.
Participants: All newborns (N = 8501) at the Metro-Health Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio, were studied (retrospective arm, all 1989 admissions; prospective arm, all July 1990 to June 1991 admissions).
Outcome measures: Blood type and Coombs' NCBT, maternal blood type and antibody screening, Hobel risk scores for clinical severity of newborn hospitalization, duration of hospitalizations, and peak serum bilirubin levels.
Results: No quantitative or qualitative increases in morbidity from jaundice were detected by retrospective analysis with unrestricted NCBT, or prospectively after selective testing on 4498 newborns. Each study arm resulted in 15 readmissions for jaundice; these included two patients with ABO HDN. Furthermore, selective testing resulted in performance of NCBTs on only 390 infants in the "normal" nursery (24% of the original sample). Estimates projected on 1991 US births (4,111,000) showed that selective NCBT offers potential yearly savings above $30.8 million of patient charges, savings above $11.3 million of hospital costs, and the reassignment of more than 112 personnel full-time equivalents.
Conclusion: Selective NCBT decreases the use of resources and costs without apparent additional patient morbidity from HDN.