ARUP is one of the first national reference laboratories to offer neonatal drug testing in umbilical cord tissue (since 2012). Its scientists continually improve on the test’s efficacy and the variety of drugs and drug metabolites it can detect. “There is a push for universal cord collection—it is a very practical way to go,” ,” says Gwen McMillin, PhD, medical director of Toxicology and Pharmacogenetics. She is a professor of pathology at the University of Utah and internationally recognized for her work in this area

Advantages of cord tissue collection and testing vs. meconium:

Faster confirmation of drug exposure and treatment. The cord tissue is collected right after birth and every baby has one. Hospitals can send the tissue straight to the lab or store it for up to two weeks. This requires less time and staff attention and fewer logistics than collecting meconium.

More objective and standardized. Universal collection removes the burden of potential biases and investigative efforts from the shoulders of the healthcare and social services providers.

Broader drug coverage. Nearly 50 drugs (including Fentanyl) or drug metabolites can be detected in cord tissue.

Fewer labeling and handling mistakes. One cord collection per birth, per room, creates fewer logistics. With meconium there are potentially several collections for many children in the nursery or NICU. The sample can also be incomplete or lost if a baby gets transferred to another hospital (common in rural areas).


To learn more visit our newborn drug testing page.