Table of Contents

HK J Paediatr (New Series)
Vol 2. No. 1, 1997

HK J Paediatr (New Series) 1997;2:92-93

Proceedings of Scientific Meeting

Newborn Identification - Is Footprinting Useful?

BCC Lam, LL Lee

HK J Paediatr (new series) 1997;2:81-97

Chinese Paediatric Forum
Department of Paediatrics, The University of Hong Kong
November 15-17, 1996

The use of footprints for infant identification in newborn nurseries is well established, based on experience with fingerprints. However, previous studies of the accuracy of newborn foot prints revealed that the majority of the footprints are technically inadequate for the purpose of identification. In spite of this, footprinting of newborns is extensively used in most hospitals. Footprinting is frequently done by untrained personnel, such as a midwife or medical student, and the quality is extremely variable. This study investigated the newborn identification procedure in various hospital authority (HA) hospitals, to determine the usefulness of newborn footprinting for identification purposes. A questionnaire was sent to various HA hospitals with obstetric facilities to enquire about routine methods of newborn identification and to enquire about incidents whereby newborn identification became problematic. All the questionnaires sent were returned. All hospitals (13) use a name bracelet as the major way of identification. All but one use footprinting as well. None of the hospitals reported the use of footprinting to solve an identification problem. In order to investigate the usefulness of footprinting for newborn identification, 30 pairs of footprints of full-term babies were taken at birth and coded. Another 30 pairs of the same groups of babies were repeated at 48 hours and coded. They were sent to the police dermatoglyphists for identification. Twelve pairs (40%) of the footprints were accurately matched based on skin crease. The high failure rate was said to be due to poor quality of the footprints. The police experts in the identification bureau were invited to conduct an education seminar and advise on the improvement of equipment and method for newborn footprinting. With improvement of technique and modification of the equipment the same study was repeated. This time two sets of footprints were taken each time. All 30 pairs of footprints were accurately identified and matched. In conclusion, footprinting of newborns is a convenient and useful method for identification purposes, provided proper techniques and precautions are observed. To increase the effectiveness of identification, two sets of the same footprint should be taken at birth.


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