It can be difficult to determine what the symptoms of kernicterus are but the most distinct one is yellowing of the skin. You can often see this when your child is born or within the first few days of their life. The yellowing of their skin goes away but the damaging effects of kernicterus can be everlasting.
Other kernicterus symptoms in your newborn can include:
- High pitch cry
- Sleeping too much
- Not eating
- Trouble sucking
It can be difficult to determine if some of these signs are normal or concerning in a newborn baby. Some of these signs may indicate another problem or illness. However, when these signs are present with yellowing of the skin, it is imperative that your baby is tested and treated right away. If it is left untreated, the outcome could be fatal. When in doubt, talk to your doctor about your concerns.
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Causes of Kernicterus
Scientifically speaking, kernicterus is caused by high levels of bilirubin in your baby’s blood. According to MedlinePlus, high levels of bilirubin are above 20 mg. Bilirubin is a natural substance that occurs during the breakdown of red blood cells. The liver is then responsible for getting rid of it by turning it into waste.
While your baby is in the womb, the placenta removes bilirubin from your baby’s system. Once your baby is born, their liver takes over. This may be an adjustment that your baby’s body needs to get used to at first, which may be why about 60% of full-term babies will have jaundice in their first few days of life. Premature babies have a higher risk of this condition because their organs, including the liver, are not fully developed. In fact, 80% of premature babies have jaundice, according to Stanford Children’s Health.
There are other health problems that can prevent the body from removing bilirubin effectively, which can include:
- A G6PD deficiency
- Trouble feeding
- Trouble going to the bathroom
- A birth injury that caused bruising
- Babies who come from a mother with O blood type
- Babies whose mother is Rh incompatible
A few other risk factors may play a role when it comes to developing jaundice and treating it. Ethnicity is one of them. Babies born with East Asian or Mediterranean descent are more likely to develop jaundice. Also, prior births with jaundice.
Furthermore, jaundice can be especially difficult to detect with darker skinned babies. Considering early detection and treatment is vital in the outcome of jaundice without serious damage, this can be a big risk factor for kernicterus.
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Diagnosing Kernicterus in a Newborn
If your newborn is displaying symptoms of jaundice or kernicterus, your doctor or nurse may apply a light meter test. This consists of getting a reading of bilirubin levels by placing the tip of the meter on the surface of the skin. If the reading comes back high, your doctor may request a blood test.
With the blood test, a sample of blood may be collected from your baby’s heel. This is a way your doctor can confirm high levels of bilirubin before moving on to treatment. Additionally, your doctor will be able to examine the blood samples for a better understanding of what exactly is causing the problem.
A few things your doctor may take a look at through the blood sample can include:
- Red blood cell count
- Coombs test
- Reticulocyte count
Your doctor or nurse may perform several blood samples throughout treatment to ensure progress and to make sure there is no other underlying medical issue that exists.
When it comes to treatment, it is not necessarily treating kernicterus but rather jaundice instead. This blood condition may not be preventable, but it is highly treatable, especially if acted upon quickly.
Treatments for jaundice can include:
- Phototherapy: Your baby will be undressed, except for a diaper, and put under special blue lights.
- Fiber optic blanket: This is a different form of phototherapy.
- Exchange transfer: This is similar to a blood transfusion.
- Liver transplant: This is very rare and usually a last resort.
Not all of these options may be viable for you. Treatment depends on how old your baby is, how severe jaundice is, and the presence of any other health problems. Your doctor can discuss the best option for your baby.
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Contact Us Today if Your Baby’s Kernicterus Symptoms Were Not Treated Properly
If you believe your baby had the symptoms of kernicterus or jaundice but it was not properly or promptly treated, you may be able to seek compensation. It is important to have your case reviewed by an attorney as soon as possible before the statute of limitations runs out and you will no longer be eligible to take legal action.
Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today for a free case review by calling (800) 222-9529.