Background: Undiagnosed congenital heart disease in the prenatal stage can occur in approximately 5 to 15 out of 1000 live births; more than a quarter of these will have critical congenital heart disease (CCHD). Late postnatal diagnosis is associated with a worse prognosis during childhood, and there is evidence that a standardized measurement of oxygen saturation in the newborn by cutaneous oximetry is an optimal method for the detection of CCHD. We conducted a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis comparing the operational characteristics of oximetry and physical examination for the detection of CCHD. Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted on the following databases including published studies between 2002 and 2017, with no language restrictions: Pubmed, Science Direct, Ovid, Scopus and EBSCO, with the following keywords: oximetry screening, critical congenital heart disease, newborn OR oximetry screening heart defects, congenital, specificity, sensitivity, physical examination. Results: A total of 419 articles were found, from which 69 were selected based on their titles and abstracts. After quality assessment, five articles were chosen for extraction of data according to inclusion criteria; data were analyzed on a sample of 404,735 newborns in the five included studies. The following values were found, corresponding to the operational characteristics of oximetry in combination with the physical examination: sensitivity: 0.92 (CI 95%, 0.87-0.95), specificity: 0.98 (CI 95%, 0.89-1.00), for physical examination alone sensitivity: 0.53 (CI 95%, 0.28-0.78) and specificity: 0.99 (CI 95%, 0.97-1.00). Conclusions: Evidence found in different articles suggests that pulse oximetry in addition to neonatal physical examination presents optimal operative characteristics that make it an adequate screening test for detection of CCHD in newborns, above all this is essential in low and middle-income settings where technology medical support is not entirely available.