Newborn Screening Program Information:
About Newborn Screening

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Newborn Screening in Minnesota
How Newborn Screening Works


Newborn Screening in Minnesota

Since 1965, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has screened Minnesota newborns soon after birth to see if they are at risk for rare, hidden disorders. If left untreated, these disorders can lead to illness, physical disability, developmental delay, or death. By identifying these disorders early, however, interventions, medications, or changes in diet can help prevent most health problems caused by the disorders on the newborn screening panel.

Minnesota is a national leader in newborn screening. The Newborn Screening Program, together with hospitals, laboratories, and medical professionals across the state, screens newborns for more than 50 disorders that affect metabolism, hormones, the immune system, blood, breathing, digestion, hearing, or the heart.

Minnesota Newborn Screening Program Goals:

  • To screen all Minnesota infants.
  • To identify infants with rare, hidden disorders or with hearing loss at an early age when treatment and intervention can prevent health problems, help facilitate development, and save lives.
  • To ensure that all infants with abnormal newborn screens have access to prompt diagnostic assessments and receive early intervention services.
  • To improve systems for follow-up, reporting, and connection to services for infants identified by newborn screening.

How Newborn Screening Works

Newborn screening in Minnesota consists of three simple tests: blood spot screening, hearing screening, and pulse oximetry screening. Pulse oximetry is a simple test used to help detect critical congenital heart defects in newborns. Pulse oximetry screening has not been fully implemented at this time; please feel free to contact the Minnesota Newborn Screening Program for further information.

Blood Spot Screening

When a newborn is between 24 and 48 hours old, a health professional will take a few drops of blood from the newborn’s heel. Many people refer to this process as “the heel stick." The drops of blood fill five spots on a filter paper card. After the drops of blood have dried, they are sent to the Minnesota Department of Health to be screened for more than 50 inherited and congenital disorders. Results of blood spot screening are mailed to the birth facility or called to the newborn’s primary health care provider if further testing is necessary.

Hearing Screening

While a newborn sleeps, a health professional will perform a simple test to check for hearing loss in the range where speech is heard. A small screening device will play soft sounds and measure the newborn’s response. Screening is best performed as soon as possible after 12 hours post-partum and should be complete before the newborn is one month old.

Pulse Oximetry Screening

When a newborn is at least a day old, a health professional will perform a quick and simple test called pulse oximetry. For this screen, sensors are placed on the newborn’s hand or foot to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood. This test helps identify newborns who may have critical congenital heart disease (CCHD).