Kernicterus is a funny word for a very serious condition. It is a type of brain damage caused by untreated infant jaundice. It may surprise you to know that infant jaundice is quite common, happening in about half of all births. Romper.com explains the facts.
Jaundice is a sign that there is a problem with the liver. The most common sign of jaundice is yellowed skin caused by a buildup of a chemical called bilirubin. Healthy livers break this down.
Mild levels of jaundice often clear up within the first two or three weeks of birth, but bilirubin levels do get noted and measured in case the jaundice is more serious. There are treatments to help if it doesn’t clear up, including using bilirubin lights and blood transfusions.
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However, if a medical professional fails to notice or treat jaundice appropriately, a more dangerous situation can develop called kernicterus. This is a type of brain damage caused by bilirubin buildup. It can cause hearing loss, athetoid cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, and other birth traumas.
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It’s also entirely preventable if jaundice is detected and treated early. A baby that develops kernicterus after birth after getting the medical all-clear from your hospital is a terrible situation. Families in such a state may be eligible for significant compensation if you can show that the hospital was negligent in detecting or treating your baby’s jaundice.