Psychosocial Response to Uncertain Newborn Screening Results for Cystic Fibrosis

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Abstract

Objective

To explore the psychosocial implications of diagnostic uncertainty that result from inconclusive results generated by newborn bloodspot screening (NBS) for cystic fibrosis (CF).

Study design

Using a mixed methods prospective cohort study of children who received NBS for CF, we compared psychosocial outcomes of parents whose children who received persistently inconclusive results with those whose children received true positive or screen-negative results.

Results

Mothers of infants who received inconclusive results (n = 17), diagnoses of CF (n = 15), and screen-negative results (n = 411) were surveyed; 23 parent interviews were completed. Compared with mothers of infants with true positive/screen-negative results, mothers of infants with inconclusive results reported greater perceived uncertainty (P < .006) but no differences in anxiety or vulnerability (P > .05). Qualitatively, parents valued being connected to experts but struggled with the meaning of an uncertain diagnosis, worried about their infant's health-related vulnerability, and had mixed views about surveillance.

Conclusion

Inconclusive CF NBS results were not associated with anxiety or vulnerability but led to health-related uncertainty and qualitative concerns. Findings should be considered alongside efforts to optimize protocols for CF screening and surveillance. Educational and psychosocial supports are warranted for these families.

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