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TORCH screen

The TORCH screen is a group of blood tests that check for several different infections in a newborn. TORCH stands for toxoplasmosis , rubella , cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, and HIV, but it can also include other newborn infections.

Sometimes the test is spelled TORCHS, where the extra "S" stands for syphilis.

How the test is performed

The health care provider will clean a small area (usually the finger) and stick it with a sharp needle or cutting instrument called a lancet. The blood may be collected in a small glass tube, on a slide, onto a test strip, or into a small container. If there is any bleeding, cotton or a bandage may be applied to the puncture site.

How to prepare for the test

For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see infant test or procedure preparation .

How the test will feel

While the blood sample is being taken, your child will most likely feel a prick and a brief stinging sensation.

Why the test is performed

If a woman becomes infected with certain germs during her pregnancy, the baby may also become infected while still in the womb. The baby is more sensitive to harm from infection during the first 3 to 4 months of the pregnancy.

This test is used to screen infants for infections such as toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, syphilis and others. These infections may lead to birth defects, growth delay, and brain and nervous system problems in the baby.

Normal Values

Normal values mean there is no sign of infection in the newborn.

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

What abnormal results mean

If high levels of antibodies called immunoglobulins (IgM) against a certain germ are found in the infant, there may be an infection. More tests must be done to confirm a diagnosis.

What the risks are

Blood draws carry a small risk of bleeding, bruising, and infection at the involved site.

Special considerations

The TORCH screen is useful for determining whether there may be an infection. However, if the result is positive, more testing will be needed to confirm the diagnosis. The mother will also need to be checked.

Updated: 5/1/2011

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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