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TORCH screen

Definition

The TORCH screen is a group of blood tests. These tests check for several different infections in a newborn. The full form of TORCH is toxoplasmosis, rubella cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, and HIV. However, it can also contain 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). They will 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 more information about 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 TORCH infections. These infections may lead to the following problems in the baby:

  • Birth defects
  • Growth delay
  • Brain and nervous system problems

Normal Results

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

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your 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. Your provider may order more tests to confirm a diagnosis.

Risks

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

Considerations

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

References

Harrison GJ. Approach to infections in the fetus and newborn. In: Cherry JD, Harrison GJ, Kaplan SL, Steinbach WJ, Hotez PJ, eds. Feigin and Cherry's Textbook of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 66.

Maldonado YA, Nizet V, Klein JO, Remington JS, Wilson CB. Current concepts of infections of the fetus and newborn infant. In: Wilson CB, Nizet V, Maldonado YA, Remington JS, Klein JO, eds. Remington and Klein's infectious Diseases of the Fetus and Newborn. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 1.


Review Date: 8/31/2016
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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