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Does this test have other names?

TORCH screen

What is this test?

The TORCH panel test is used to help diagnose infections that could harm the unborn baby during pregnancy. TORCH is an acronym of the 5 infections covered in the screening:

  • Toxoplasmosis. This infection is caused by a parasite commonly picked up from cat stools. Babies can get congenital toxoplasmosis. Congenital means present at birth. If untreated, it can cause blindness, deafness, seizures, and intellectual disability.

  • Other, including syphilis. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that a mother can pass on to an unborn baby during pregnancy. Syphilis can cause a baby to be stillborn. It can also cause premature labor, birth defects, low birth weight, and deafness.

  • Rubella. Rubella, also called German measles, is a viral infection that can easily be passed from person to person through sneezing or coughing. Rubella is less common today because a vaccine protects against it. But pregnant women with rubella can pass the virus to their baby, which may be a serious condition. Rubella can cause miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth. It can also cause problems with the baby's heart, vision, hearing, and growth.

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV). CMV is a type of herpes virus and is the most common congenital infection in babies. Mothers can get CMV by sexual contact or contact with bodily fluids such as saliva from a person who has CMV. CMV can cause long-term problems in infants, including problems with vision, hearing, and mental development.

  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV). Pregnant women can get the genital herpes simplex virus through sexual contact with an infected person. They can also pass the infection along to the developing baby during delivery. HSV in babies can cause low birth weight, miscarriage, and preterm birth. It can also cause sores that affect the skin, eyes, and mouth, as well as brain and organ damage.

These infections can cause serious problems during pregnancy, so it's important to find them early in pregnancy so that they can be treated, if treatment is possible. Women often get the TORCH screening test at their first prenatal visit. Your healthcare provider will tell you if TORCH screening is needed.

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if you are pregnant. This test may also be done on newborn babies to diagnose any possible infections.

What other tests might I have along with this test?

You may have other prenatal screening tests done at the same time, including:

  • HIV test

  • Test for Down syndrome or other chromosome conditions 

  • Gestational diabetes test  

What do my test results mean?

A lab test result may be affected by many things, including the method the lab uses to do the test. If your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare provider.

The TORCH panel test results show if you have any of these infections. Normal test results will show that you do not have any of the viruses, bacteria, or parasites screened for in the test. Positive test results will show that you have 1 or more of these viruses, bacteria, or parasites.

How is this test done?

The test is done with a blood sample. A needle is used to draw blood from a vein in your arm or hand. 

Does this test pose any risks?

Having a blood test with a needle carries some risks. These include bleeding, infection, bruising, and feeling lightheaded. When the needle pricks your arm or hand, you may feel a slight sting or pain. Afterward, the site may be sore. 

What might affect my test results?

Nothing is likely to affect the results of this test. Your healthcare provider will tell you if any of your medicines may affect the test and if you should not take them before having the test.

How do I get ready for this test?

You likely don't need to do anything special to get ready for the test. Follow any instructions your healthcare provider gives you about not eating or drinking or not taking medicines before the test. Tell your provider about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don't need a prescription and any illegal drugs you may use. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Chad Haldeman-Englert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2020
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