Jaundice can be a life-altering condition for babies, causing brain damage, hearing loss, cerebral palsy or even death. It is fairly common, occurring in about 60% of all births. Jaundice results in an excess of bilirubin in the blood, which the baby’s liver cannot remove quickly enough. When bilirubin levels get too high, it collects in the brain.
Typically, babies are visually screened for jaundice. Yellow skin is the first indication. When symptoms are apparent, blood tests must be quickly conducted, and reevaluation should occur quickly thereafter. Treatment may include phototherapy (using special lights to help the body get rid of the excess bilirubin), and even blood transfusions.
A new study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, shows promise for identifying babies with jaundice using nothing more complicated than a painless skin monitoring test. This is particularly important for pre-term babies, in whom early diagnosis of jaundice can be difficult.
The study identified the locations of the body that are best for testing. The chest and back were most sensitive for revealing bilirubin levels throughout the body. The method used, the skin monitoring test, is particularly meaningful because the only other methods are direct observation (which is unreliable and less than scientific), and daily blood tests (which are unrealistic). In particular, skin tests can be used for long-term monitoring. Lengthy monitoring can be crucial, because jaundice can worsen in severity even weeks after birth.
We hope that this method, if successful in the long-term, will become the new standard of care for doctors and hospitals.
If further study shows that this method of detecting jaundice is viable, then it will undoubtedly prevent significant injury in a great many babies. For more information jaundice, contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (440) 252-4399 or online for a free consultation.