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A baby with jaundice needs to be diagnosed immediately

Every year, thousands of Pittsburgh parents welcome a new baby into their lives. Most of the time, these babies arrive with no issues and are healthy. But, occasionally, a baby has a medical issue that needs to be identified. One such issue is jaundice. The failure to diagnose a jaundiced baby can lead to a worsened condition.

Many babies are born with a condition known as jaundice. Jaundice is when the baby’s blood has an excessive level of bilirubin, which is a pigment of red blood cells. Babies with jaundice often have a yellowish tint. The babies have jaundice because their liver is not able to get rid of the excess bilirubin in the bloodstream. It typically happens to babies who are born before 38 weeks. The treatment for jaundice can include placing the baby under a special light (phototherapy). This can break down the bilirubin into a substance that can be excreted in the baby’s urine and stool. In extreme cases, a baby may need an exchange of blood. This is when small amounts of blood are withdrawn, the bilirubin and maternal antibodies are diluted and the blood is transferred back into the baby.

Most of the time, jaundice is not a serious condition and babies who have jaundice are quickly recognized and treated. But, if jaundice is not recognized and there is delayed treatment, it can lead to a serious condition. High levels of bilirubin can cause acute bilirubin encephalopathy. This is when the bilirubin passes into the brain. When the brain has permanent damage because of this, it is called kernicterus. Kernicterus is a brain injury that can lead to involuntary movements, hearing loss and an upward gaze.

Thankfully, most babies with jaundice are properly diagnosed. But, if a family believes their baby was harmed because jaundice was not diagnosed properly, they may want to speak with a legal professional skilled in medical malpractice. An attorney can review the medical records and determine what happened to cause the unexpected injury. Compensation may be available for medical expenses, pain and suffering and other damages.

Source: MayoClinic.org, “Infant jaundice,” accessed on July 7, 2015

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