Has Your Baby Been Affected By Kernicterus Or Hyperbilirubinemia?
Severely elevated levels of bilirubin, left untreated, can develop into a condition known as severe Hyperbilirubinemia. This liver condition can cause serious, irreversible brain damage or even death in a newborn. When bilirubin reaches an extremely high level in the blood and it crosses the blood-brain barrier it destroys brain cells. Permanent brain damage due to bilirubin is called Kernicterus.
If you suspect your baby may have been hurt by untreated or poorly treated jaundice/hyperbilirubinemia, we are here to help you and your loved ones get the justice you deserve.
Signs & Symptoms
What Is Bilirubin?
Bilirubin is a byproduct of the breakdown of old red blood cells, and is excreted in urine and stool. Newborns typically have elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood since their bodies excrete it a slower rate than adults. If bilirubin is produced faster than it can be excreted, jaundice results. Jaundice is a sign that a baby is at risk of hyperbilirubinemia (i.e., levels of bilirubin that are too high).
What Are The Signs?
Signs of worsening jaundice/severe hyperbilirubinemia include yellowing of the “whites” of the eyes, yellow palms and soles, difficulty in feeding, difficulty waking, irritability, and arching the neck or body backward. In the presence of jaundice, these signs mandate a skin or blood test to check a baby’s bilirubin level.
How is Hyperbilirubinemia Treated?
A baby exhibiting signs and symptoms of elevated bilirubin levels should be carefully monitored. If the levels continue to rise, more aggressive therapies, such as an exchange transfusion or light therapy, should be prescribed immediately to avoid the onset of Kernicterus.
What Is Kernicterus?
Kernicterus is a permanent neurological dysfunction precipitated by elevated levels of bilirubin in the blood. This condition is usually found in newborns with jaundice whose bilirubin levels are not closely monitored by medical personnel and are allowed to climb without more aggressive interventions.
While mildly elevated levels of bilirubin and neonatal jaundice are common in newborns, bilirubin levels must be closely monitored to avoid Acute Bilirubin Encephalopathy (ABE) -- an acute state of elevated bilirubin in the brain and central nervous system. Bilirubin has been found to accumulate in the gray matter of the brain, where it exerts direct neurotoxic effects in the form of mass neuron destruction. This destruction results in permanent lesions.
If the ABE is not immediately treated, it can quickly progress to Chronic Bilirubin Encephalopathy (CBE), a chronic state in which subsequent treatments will not correct the damage done by the bilirubin-induced neurological lesions. CBE can manifest in a number of ways, including: intellectual disability, epilepsy, movement disorders (dystonia, athetoid cerebral palsy), oculomotor dysfunction (cortical visual impairments, impaired gaze, strabismus, nystagmus), auditory neuropathy, gastroesophageal reflux, dental enamel hypoplasia, dysplacia of the deciduous teeth and/or impaired digestive function.
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