After finding out your newborn son or daughter has hyperbilirubinemia, you naturally want to understand what their diagnosis means and what their prognosis means for their present and future. That means you need to understand what the recovery process entails following a hyperbilirubinemia diagnosis. The details and specifics of the recovery process depend on the severity of your child’s condition and the treatment plan your child’s medical team prescribes.
If your infant is diagnosed with a mild case of hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice, the condition may be able to resolve itself. As part of the recovery process, the health care team who takes care of your son or daughter may also recommend changes in your newborn’s feeding habits that can help lower their bilirubin levels. The recovery time for mild cases like these will usually be less than three weeks.
If your infant has a moderate or severe case of hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice, he may require a longer than usual hospital stay. If jaundice is discovered after your newborn is discharged from the hospital, he may need to be readmitted for effective medical treatments. The recovery process following a hyperbilirubinemia diagnosis is also likely to entail one of three primary treatment options:
- Phototherapy under a special, blue-green spectrum lamp
- Intravenous immunoglobulin that reduces the levels of antibodies caused by Rh incompatibility
- Exchange transfusion which slowly replaces your child’s blood with healthy, donor blood
Your child’s doctor will probably suggest more frequent breast or bottle feedings to produce more bowel movements. This increase in bowel movements can help rid your baby’s body of excess bilirubin. Whichever treatments your child receives, the recovery process following a hyperbilirubinemia diagnosis will probably entail a stay in your hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
The Risk Factors for Hyperbilirubinemia
Many of the risk factors for hyperbilirubinemia and infant jaundice can cause additional complications. Those risk factors include:
- Prematurity: Premature newborns may not have the ability to process bilirubin as well as full-term babies.
- Birth Injuries: Birth injuries that cause significant bruising during birth can lead to increased bilirubin levels from the breakdown of extra red blood cells.
- Blood Type: If you and your baby have different blood types, he may have received antibodies that cause a rapid breakdown of red blood cells.
- Breastfeeding: Breastfed babies who have difficulty in nursing are at higher risk of jaundice due to dehydration.
The risk factors of hyperbilirubinemia should be reviewed and explained during prenatal appointments and any time risk factors become apparent.
Complications That Might Affect the Recovery Process Following a Hyperbilirubinemia Diagnosis
Hyperbilirubinemia and extremely high levels of bilirubin in your baby’s blood can travel to his brain and cause seizures and irreversible brain damage. This condition is called kernicterus. Your child’s risk of developing kernicterus increases if he is born prematurely or has a coexisting serious illness.
Kernicterus is a serious disorder that requires immediate medical attention and follow-up treatments. Untreated kernicterus can leave your newborn with a lifetime of medical challenges. When a hyperbilirubinemia diagnosis is compounded by kernicterus, the recovery process changes significantly because kernicterus can lead to significant brain injuries that have lifelong repercussions.
This brain damage can result in developmental delays, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and seizures. The recovery process also changes because while hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice are treatable conditions, once brain injury occurs, there is no treatment to reverse its damage. The most severe cases might even result in the death of the infant.
Bruising of Your Newborn
A birth injury is a damage that happens when your newborn is subjected to physical pressure during labor and delivery. It usually occurs during their transit through the birth canal. Injuries to your baby’s skin and soft tissues can seem minor right after they happen, but areas that incur excessive pressure can lead to serious bruises.
Your newborn can become bruised from pressure during contractions or from the pressure of emerging from the birth canal during delivery. Assistive delivery instruments like forceps can also cause bruising and swelling on your baby’s body. As larger bruises begin to heal, they can impact the recovery process because significant bruising can cause higher levels of bilirubin due to the breakdown of more red blood cells.
Your Child May Be Entitled to Financial Compensation
When your child is diagnosed with hyperbilirubinemia, you want answers to a plethora of questions about what the future holds for your son or daughter. Understanding what the recovery process entails following a hyperbilirubinemia diagnosis is only part of your journey as a parent.
Your child’s medical team can help you understand their prognosis. Your attorney can help you understand your legal and financial choices. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 to discuss the particulars of your case with an attorney near you.