Screening for congenital hypothyroidism: results of screening one million North American infants

J Pediatr. 1979 May;94(5):700-5. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(79)80133-x.


Pilot programs for screening of newborn infants for congenital hypothyroidism began in North America in 1972. To date, the five oldest programs (Quebec, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Oregon Regional, and New England Regional) have screened 1,046,362 infants. A total of 277 infants with congenital hypothyroidism have been detected and seven have been missed, resulting in a total of 284 affected infants in the screened population and an overall incidence of one in 3,684 live births. Of the affected infants, 246 were determined to have primary hypothyroidism, an incidence of one in 4,254 births. Ten infants with secondary-tertiary hypothyroidism were detected in Quebec, Oregon, and Toronto, an incidence of one in 68,200 births. Of all the infants with primary hypothyroidism who were adequately studied, 63% were determined to have aplastic or hypoplastic glands, 14% normal or enlarged glands, and 23% ectopic thyroid tissue. The estimated minimum incidence of infants with TBG deficiency is one in 8,913 births. Only 8 of the 277 detected infants were suspected clinically to have congenital hypothyroidism prior to the time of confirmation of the diagnosis at 4 to 8 weeks of age. The cost of screening varied from $0.70 to $1.60 per infant, depending on which costs were included in the estimate. Preliminary evidence from Quebec suggests that infants treated in the program have normal developmental testing scores at 18 months of age.

MeSH terms

  • Alpha-Globulins / deficiency
  • Congenital Hypothyroidism*
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / diagnosis
  • Hypothyroidism / epidemiology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mass Screening* / economics
  • North America
  • Thyroxine-Binding Proteins / deficiency
  • Voluntary Health Agencies


  • Alpha-Globulins
  • Thyroxine-Binding Proteins