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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
How Common Is A Hyperbilirubinemia Diagnosis In Newborns?
A hyperbilirubinemia diagnosis is common in newborns. While there are no available statistics on how many infants have hyperbilirubinemia, there are statistics available about common complications of this condition—specifically jaundice.
JAUNDICE IN NEWBORNS
About 60 percent of full-term babies and up to 80% of premature babies will get jaundice. If you have been diagnosed with either diabetes or Rh disease, your newborn’s odds of acquiring hyperbilirubinemia increase. Two percent of breastfed babies will get jaundice in their first week of life.
TYPES OF JAUNDICE
When your baby is born, their body has to take over for your placenta and start removing bilirubin from their blood. This can be difficult to accomplish, especially in the first few days of life. When that removal does not happen, your child develops hyperbilirubinemia, which can be a precursor to jaundice. The varying types include:
- Physiologic jaundice happens because of your baby’s difficulty removing bilirubin.
- Breastfeeding failure jaundice happens when there are issues with your baby breastfeeding. It can lead to dangerous dehydration.
- Breastmilk jaundice can last up to twelve weeks and can be caused by a substance in breastmilk.
In addition to these causes, if your baby has Rh disease, they may have jaundice from hemolysis caused by having too many red blood cells or, rarely, from fragile red blood cells.
HYPERBILIRUBINEMIA IN YOUR NEWBORN
Hyperbilirubinemia is the buildup of bilirubin in your baby’s blood. The bilirubin builds up because their liver is unable to remove it.
The Role of Bilirubin in Hyperbilirubinemia
Your baby’s body makes bilirubin during the normal process of breaking down their red blood cells. Bilirubin is a yellow substance found in a fluid in your baby’s liver called bile. Bile helps your son or daughter digest food. When your child has a healthy liver, it naturally removes most of the bilirubin from their body.
Bilirubin has a distinct color that can cause your baby’s skin, eyes, and other tissues to take on a yellowish tinge. Too much bilirubin in your baby’s blood can cause a variety of health problems.
Signs and Symptoms of Hyperbilirubinemia
The symptoms of hyperbilirubinemia often appear differently in each newborn and might include yellowing of your baby’s skin and the whites of their eyes. This discoloration will usually start on your baby’s face and move down their bodies. You or a member of your baby’s health care team might also notice poor feeding and a marked lack of energy.
Hyperbilirubinemia’s symptoms can mimic the symptoms of other conditions which makes it important to seek a proper diagnosis as soon as symptoms are noticed in your newborn.
SPEAK TO A HYPERBILIRUBINEMIA LAWYER NEAR YOU
If your baby has been diagnosed with hyperbilirubinemia and you believe untreated jaundice or Rh disease might be the cause, you should consult an attorney right away. An attorney knows that a hyperbilirubinemia diagnosis is common in newborns and can help you assign liability and hold the right people responsible for the role they may have played in your child developing this current medical condition. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 261-9292 for a free evaluation of your potential birth injury lawsuit.
What Recovery Options Are Available For Newborns Diagnosed With Hyperbilirubinemia?
The recovery options available for newborns diagnosed with hyperbilirubinemia will vary according to the cause of their original diagnosis. The treatment your newborn will receive will depend on factors like the onset of jaundice, your child’s specific symptoms, their age, their overall health, and the severity of their condition.
Bilirubin is an orange-yellow byproduct created from the break-down of blood cells. When the liver is failing to filter this byproduct out, or the newborn’s red blood cells are breaking down faster than they should, the excessive bilirubin becomes apparent in the eyes and skin as a yellow pigment. It is typically a sign of jaundice, anemia, and liver disease.
There are three common recovery options for newborns diagnosed with hyperbilirubinemia. Those three options include:
- Phototherapy treatment uses special blue-spectrum lights to alter the bilirubin levels in the newborn. This treatment can start working within hours.
- During fiber optic blanket treatment, the medical professional will place your baby on top of a blanket, where they will undergo phototherapy treatment.
- During a blood exchange transfusion, your baby’s blood is replaced with fresh blood that has a normal amount of bilirubin.
In addition to the above three treatments, feeding with breastmilk, encouraging good eating habits, and treating infections or any underlying cause of hyperbilirubinemia can help steer your child toward restored health. If these treatments are unsuccessful, your baby may need a liver transplant.
COMMON CAUSES OF HYPERBILIRUBINEMIA
The recovery options available for newborns diagnosed with hyperbilirubinemia will vary according to its underlying cause. Hyperbilirubinemia is the buildup of excessive amounts of bilirubin in your infant’s blood. This buildup happens because while you were pregnant, your placenta cushioned and protected your baby as they grew. It also removed bilirubin from your baby’s blood.
When a baby is born, their liver takes over the work of excreting bilirubin from his body. A variety of factors can contribute to your baby having too much bilirubin:
- Physiologic jaundice is caused when your newborn is incapable of getting rid of the bilirubin in their body in the first several days of life. This type of jaundice can be a normal response as your child adjusts to life outside the womb.
- Jaundice from hemolysis is caused by Rh incompatibility, which happens when your newborn has a different blood type from yours.
- Breastfeeding failure jaundice occurs when babies do not breastfeed well in the beginning. A failure to breastfeed can cause dehydration, which can lead to a buildup of bilirubin.
- Breastmilk jaundice can result from ingesting a substance—found in your breastmilk—which changes how your baby’s body reabsorbs bilirubin.
Jaundice can also be caused by poor liver function due to an infection. Your baby’s liver is responsible for getting rid of bilirubin. A poorly functioning liver can cause increased levels of bilirubin.
HOW YOUR NEWBORN’S DOCTOR DIAGNOSES HYPERBILIRUBINEMIA
When your child’s jaundice appears typically depends on the type of jaundice they have. For example, when the yellowing of the eyes and skin appears on the second or third day, it is usually physiologic jaundice. When it appears at the end of the first week, it is usually breastmilk jaundice or caused by an infection. When it appears in the second week or later, it can be breastmilk jaundice or a liver problem.
EXPLORE YOUR LEGAL OPTIONS WITH A BIRTH INJURY LAWYER
Identifying the recovery options available for newborns diagnosed with hyperbilirubinemia can help you understand what the future holds for your son or daughter. You will also want to know if this condition could have been prevented. Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 261-9292 to discuss your child’s case and your options for financial recovery.