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High levels of bilirubin newborns can have major consequences

For most Pittsburgh parents, the birth of a baby is a happy affair. Most newborns are born without consequences and are healthy and can go home in just a few days. But sometimes newborns are born with medical conditions and birth injuries that need further treatment.

One medical condition that a newborn can suffer from is jaundice. Jaundice is caused by a high level of bilirubin which causes the baby's skin to look yellow. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that is created as the body is getting rid of old red blood cells. If a baby's jaundice is not properly treated the bilirubin can move out of the blood and collect in the baby's brain tissue. This can cause hearing loss and brain injury.

The yellow staining that comes with high levels of bilirubin is called kernicterus. Symptoms of early-stage kernicterus in newborns include severe jaundice, sleeplessness and poor feeding by the baby. Mid-stage kernicterus symptoms include a high-pitched cries, seizures, soft spot on the head and an arched back with neck extended backwards. Late-stage kernicterus has hearing loss, seizures, movement disorders and intellectual disabilities.

When caught early, jaundice can be treated with light therapy and exchange transfusions. If the baby is not treated and enters into later stages of kernicterus, they often die.

If a family believe a medical provider did not properly treat their newborn that showed signs of jaundice, they may want to speak with a legal professional skilled in medical malpractice. An attorney can review medical records and determine who was negligent. Compensation may be available for unexpected medical expenses, pain and suffering, future medical care costs and other damages.

Newborn babies who do not receive proper treatment for jaundice can suffer from a serious injury. It is important to hold negligent medical providers responsible to make sure they don't harm anyone else.

Source: Medline Plus, "Kernicterus," accessed on April 14, 2015

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