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Routine Blood Tests for Children with Down Syndrome

written by: DaniellaNicole•edited by: Diana Cooper•updated: 11/17/2010

Learn about the routine blood tests for children with Down syndrome and why they are done. Find out what medical conditions Down syndrome children have a higher risk for and what additional screening some physicians and families believe are needed.

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    About Down Syndrome

    Down syndrome is a condition in which a child is born with an extra chromosome. It is a genetic disorder that can include some mental retardation and birth defects. According to the Children’s Hospital Boston, “Down syndrome is one of the most common genetic birth defects, affecting approximately one in 800 to 1,000 babies. In this country [USA], there are approximately 350,000 individuals with Down syndrome, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. Life expectancy among adults with Down syndrome is about 55 years, though average life span varies."

    Children with Down syndrome are at higher risk for certain medical problems such as congenital heart defect, pulmonary hypertension, hearing and vision difficulties, thyroid, intestinal issues, seizures, respiratory infections, obesity, leukemia and infection.

    Because of this, it is common for certain blood tests to be performed across their lifetime to monitor their health. These routine blood tests for children with Down syndrome are organized by recommended age, according to The National Down Syndrome Congress Center’s Down Syndrome Preventative Medical Check List.

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    Birth to One Month

    One of the blood tests that is given at this age is a hematocrit or complete blood count. This checks for polycythemia or myeloproliferative disorders. Another is a thyroid function test.

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    One to Twelve Months

    In this age range, the blood tests will consist of thyroid function tests. These will be performed approximately every six to twelve months.

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    One to Twelve Years

    During this span of time, the blood tests typically administered will consist of thyroid function tests and celiac disease screening.

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    Twelve to Eighteen Years

    During this age range, more thyroid testing is done, in addition to other, non-blood work testing that is conducted.

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    Over Age Eighteen

    Thyroid testing is still conducted, along with other tests that do not involve blood work. This is in addition to the traditional adult exams and screening that will take place, such as prostate exams, pap smears and mammograms.

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    Other Testing

    Some physicians and parents believe in regular leukemia screening for their Down syndrome patient/child. If leukemia develops, it is best to catch it early on, making this practice something to consider due to the higher risk for childhood leukemia Down syndrome children face. This would make leukemia screening a part of the routine blood tests for children with Down syndrome.

    If there is a family history or signs of other higher-risk medical conditions in a child with Down syndrome, it is wise to regularly screen for it. The child’s treating physician can make recommendations for which tests to run, when they should be run, and how often they should be run. Some of this will be based on family history, risk factors and current health status.

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    References

    Down Syndrome. KidsHealth. Reviewed by Charles I. Scott, MD. August 2008. http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/genetic/down_syndrome.html#

    Health Care Guidelines for Individuals with Down Syndrome. 1999 Revision. Edited by William I. Cohen, MD. http://www.ndsccenter.org/resources/healthcare.pdf

    My Child Has Down Syndrome. Children’s Hospital Boston. http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site803/mainpageS803P0.html