Newborn Screening Information for Providers: Blood Spot Screening in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Newborn Screening Information for Providers:
Blood Spot Screening in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

On this page:
Newborns Weighing Under 2000 grams
Newborns Requiring Transfusion
Newborns Requiring Transfer

Most infants in the NICU are hospitalized for reasons not associated with one of the disorders on the newborn screening panel. However, all infants in the NICU are more likely to have false positive results due to confounding factors such as immaturity, birth defects, drug side-effects, or non-standard feeding needs. Depending on their health status, infants in the NICU also require special attention when it comes to screening. For these reasons, it is critical that all medical staff members that play a role in newborn screening – including neonatologists, neonatal nurse practitioners, nurses, laboratory professionals, and support staff members – understand these nuances and are prepared to follow alternative screening protocols.

Newborns Weighing Under 2000 Grams

Standard screening protocols can miss affected infants born prematurely, Because of this, we request additional screens at 14 and 30 days on infants born weighing under 2000 grams. If the infant is ready for discharge before either of these subsequent screens, a specimen should be collected on the day of discharge. If the infant is scheduled to be discharged shortly after the 14-day specimen was collected, please use medical judgment to determine whether a subsequent specimen is warranted. If the infant was dischraged before the 30-day specimen was collected and there are no follow-up requests from the Newborn Screening Program, the child's doctor does not need to collect the 30-day specimen.

Reviewing the results of multiple screens helps us provide a more accurate risk assessment for the infant. This reflexive rescreening protocol is intended to reduce both false positive and false negative results.

Newborns Requiring Transfusion

If an infant requires any type of blood transfusion, collect the blood spots before blood products are administered, even if the infant is less than 24 hours of age. If the pre-transfusion specimen was collected prior to 24 hours of life, a subsequent specimen should be collected after 24 hours. In all instances where a specimen was collected prior to 24 hours of life from an infant weighing under 2000 grams, the subsequent specimen can be collected at 14 days of age instead of at the usual 24 to 48 hours of life. Refer to the Complete Blood Spot Screen (PDF).

If an infant is transfused and a prior specimen was not collected, a specimen should be collected between the optimal time of 24 to 48 hours of life or as soon as possible, and a second specimen should be collected at 90 days after the last transfusion. The 90-day specimen allows our staff to accurately interpret those results which are impacted by transfusion.

Newborns Requiring Transfer

It is important that premature and sick infants not miss the benefits of newborn screening because they need to be transferred to another facility. Following these simple guidelines should assure that no babies are missed.

  • Babies transferred to a NICU in Minnesota do not need screening before transport.
  • Babies transferred to a NICU in another state need to have a screening specimen collected before transfer. Bordering states do not always offer the same screens that Minnesota does. By screening the baby before it leaves you can be sure it benefitted from Minnesota’s screening program.

In addition, birth hospital staff should screen an infant before transport in the following situations:

  • The infant is over 24 hours of age at the time of transport.
  • The baby will be transfused before transport.
  • There is a strong likelihood that the infant will not survive the transport.

When receiving an infant from another hospital, the receiving hospital should:

  • Collect a specimen at 24-48 hours of age if the baby was admitted before 24 hours of age.
  • Collect a specimen prior to transfusion or other treatments that may impact screening, even if the newborn is less than 24 hours of age.