Staff Reporter

Coimbatore: Congenital Hypothyroidism (CH) is a condition that could cause mental and physical retardation in children. It is preventable if it is detected as soon as a baby is born.

The G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Memorial (GKNM) Hospital recently launched a Newborn Thyroid Screening Programme that could detect and treat CH in newborns. Speaking on the occasion, Ramkumar Raghupathy, Dean, GKNM, said that being a condition easily detectable at birth and simple to treat, this treatment could ensure the prevention of the most common cause of retardation.

All that needed to be done was to spread awareness on this issue.

Dr. P. Raghupathy, Paediatric Endocrinologist and former professor of Paediatrics, Christian Medical College, Vellore, explained how brain growth in children occurred most rapidly in the first few weeks after birth. This development was dependent on a hormone called thyroxine secreted by the thyroid gland, located in the front of the neck.

A defective thyroid gland that secreted insufficient or no thyroxine caused mental and physical retardation in children, he said.

"If CH is detected and treated immediately at birth, the child has every chance of leading a physically and mentally normal life."

Blood from the umbilical cord was tested to check if the baby was deficient in thyroxine and thyroxine replacement therapy begins immediately. Parents were counselled regarding the need for treatment.

If left undetected (there are no obvious symptoms till the child is two to three months old), CH could lead to irreversible damage.

All the babies born at the GKNM hospital undergo this test. Out of the 550 babies tested, one has been found to have CH.

The test is non-invasive, simple, quick to administer and inexpensive. The report is ready, usually within a few hours.