Differences in Outcomes between Early and Late Diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis in the Newborn Screening Era

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To evaluate children with cystic fibrosis (CF) who had a late diagnosis of CF (LD-CF) despite newborn screening (NBS) and compare their clinical outcomes with children diagnosed after a positive NBS (NBS-CF).

Study design

A retrospective review of patients with LD-CF in New South Wales, Australia, from 1988 to 2010 was performed. LD-CF was defined as NBS-negative (negative immunoreactive trypsinogen or no F508del) or NBS-positive but discharged following sweat chloride < 60 mmol/L. Cases of LD-CF were each matched 1:2 with patients with NBS-CF for age, sex, hospital, and exocrine pancreatic status.


A total of 45 LD-CF cases were identified (39 NBS-negative and 6 NBS-positive) with 90 NBS-CF matched controls. Median age (IQR) of diagnosis for LD-CF and NBS-CF was 1.35 (0.4-2.8) and 0.12 (0.03-0.2) years, respectively (P < .0001). Estimated incidence of LD-CF was 1 in 45 000 live births. Compared with NBS-CF, LD-CF had more respiratory manifestations at time of diagnosis (66% vs 4%; P < .0001), a higher rate of hospital admission per year for respiratory illness (0.49 vs 0.2; P = .0004), worse lung function (forced expiratory volume in 1 second percentage of predicted, 0.88 vs 0.97; P = .007), and higher rates of chronic colonization with Pseudomonas aeruginosa (47% vs 24%; P = .01). The LD-CF cohort also appeared to be shorter than NBS-CF controls (mean height z-score −0.65 vs −0.03; P = .02).


LD-CF, despite NBS, seems to be associated with worse health before diagnosis and worse later growth and respiratory outcomes, thus providing further support for NBS programs for CF.

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