Experts from Pune stress on the need for newborn screening to detect Congenital Hypothyroidism

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Pune, January 24, 2017: Our country is slowly emerging as a world leader in medical advancements. India is now a major provider of health services and we have some of the most highly skilled and qualified medical providers in the world. However, quality healthcare and lack of national care has produced severe health issues throughout the nation. One such major health concern is that of ‘Congenital Hypothyroidism’ (CH) which affects 1 in 2640 newborns in India.

To encourage conversations on the topic, Dr Vaman Khadilkar (Senior Pediatric Endocrinologist, Ira Diabetes Clinic), Dr Uday Phadke (Senior Adult Endocrinologist, Galaxy Care Hospital), Dr Supriya Phanse (Pediatric Endocrinologist, Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital), Dr Rahul Jahagirdar (Pediatric Endocrinologist, Bharti Hospital) and Dr Sanjay Mankar (Pediatrician, Mankar Child Hospital), came together to evaluate associated risks and minimize possible threats for Congenital Hypothyroidism by early intervention.

To encourage conversations on the topic, Dr Vaman Khadilkar, Senior Pediatric Endocrinologist, Ira Diabetes Clinic said, “Congenital Hypothyroidism is a preventable cause of mental retardation. The best way to diagnose this condition is through neonatal screening. Selective screening of newborns may not be the right approach. Every newborn needs to be screened. Post diagnosis, treatment should begin immediately. Every passing week leads to an IQ loss of about 5 points. There is an urgent need to amplify awareness levels among all stakeholders – parents, medical practitioners, and caregivers. The importance of newborn screening should be stress upon in all prenatal counseling and procedures.”

Dr Uday Phadke, Senior Adult Endocrinologist, Galaxy Care Hospital said, “The thyroid hormone plays a crucial role in body functions and brain development. Congenital Hypothyroidism if not treated in time can have serious mental and physical implications. Since there is lack of awareness on the topic, unfortunately, most cases reach us at a delayed stage when there is very little we can do to save the child’s future.  It is important to be aware about this condition because if not identified in time, can cause permanent damage to the child’s growth. Congenital Hypothyroidism can be easily treated with thyroid hormone replacement. It is imperative that doctors and medical professionals all around stress on the need to screen newborns for CH so that timely measures can be taken to curb any damage and protect every child.”

Most newborns with Congenital Hypothyroidism appear normal at birth, even if there is complete lack of development of the thyroid gland. This is because a small amount of thyroid hormone (T4) from the mother is transferred to the baby during pregnancy. Around 10 per cent of infants with Congenital Hypothyroidism have other associated abnormalities; most commonly witnessed are cardiac abnormalities followed by abnormalities of the nervous system and eyes.

Dr Supriya Phanse, Pediatric Endocrinologist, Dinanath Mangeskar Hospital, said, “Congenital hypothyroidism is an easily treatable condition.  However, most babies with congenital hypothyroidism have no clinical features at birth. Clinical signs of hypothyroidism often take weeks to months to manifest, which may be too late to reverse the neurological impairment.  Thus it is imprudent to test for hypothyroidism only in presence of clinical features. Early detection and commencement of treatment in the first 2 weeks of life can prevent neurological damage. Hence all babies should be screened for hypothyroidism at birth.”

Stressing on the importance of timely identification and treatment, Dr Rahul Jahagirdar, Pediatric Endocrinologist, Bharti Hospital, “The initial stages of a child’s life are the most crucial for mental and physical development. Improper supply of thyroid hormone suggests that the brain cannot develop normally thus leading to irreversible damage. A simple preventive measure like screening can reduce large number of complications. Screening every child is crucial. Early identification, diagnosis and treatment are indispensable.”

On a concluding note, Dr Sanjay Mankar, Pediatrician, Mankar Child Hospital, said, “Newborn screening has been made mandatory in developed countries where there is a greater emphasis on investment in the health sector. India too must understand the importance and make efforts to ensure every newborn is screened. Delayed diagnosis leads to delayed treatment. No child deserves to be left undiagnosed and bear the brunt of living with mental retardation. A simple test can help us safeguard a child’s future.”