From 1 June 2022, the heel prick test for Dutch newborns will also screen for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). SMA is a serious hereditary muscle condition. Detecting this disease at an early stage enables early treatment. This prevents serious harm to the child’s health.

SMA is a serious hereditary muscle condition. Each year, around 15 to 20 children in the Netherlands are born with SMA. Children with this disease get paralysed and can die from it. Complaints usually start at an early age. The seriousness of the disease varies per child.

Early detection of SMA means that treatment can start within a few weeks after birth. This prevents irreparable damage and severe suffering. SMA is treated in the SMA Expertise Centre, which is part of the University Medical Center Utrecht.

The Netherlands is one of the first countries in Euroe introducing screening of newborns for SMA. So far, only Norway, Germany and the region of Wallonia in Belgium are screening newborns for SMA. Other countries are running pilot projects.

The Dutch heel prick screening programme has been running for many years and is very successful in detecting serious treatable diseases in newborns. SMA is the first muscle disease to be covered by the heel prick test. The addition of SMA brings the total number of diseases covered by the heel prick test to 26. The heel prick screening programme will cover even more diseases in the future