Although jaundice is a common ailment for some infants, if not diagnosed and properly treated, it could develop into a life-threatening condition called kernicterus. This may interfere with a child’s well-being for years to come and develop into cerebral palsy. In the past, many doctors did not see cases of kernicterus because hospital stays for new mothers and their babies extended past 48 hours, allowing doctors to provide jaundice treatment if necessary. Unfortunately, due to the premature release of postnatal patients from hospitals, cases of cerebral palsy are on the rise, and kernicterus is an early indicator of the disorder. Oftentimes, first-time parents may not fully recognize the beginning stages of jaundice in their newborns without a doctor’s treatment.
When a baby’s liver cannot process bilirubin, which assists in digestion, the infant’s skin turns yellow. If the infant does not receive proper treatment in time, kernicterus develops. This puts the baby in danger of hearing loss, eye issues, developmental delays, and potentially fatal consequences.
Symptoms and risk factors of a baby with kernicterus include:
Infant appears lethargic
Infant is extremely sleepy
Infant shows no response to sudden movements or touch
Infant has seizures or a fever
Poor muscle tone
Infant cries in an abnormally high-pitched manner
Risk factors for the disorder may include:
Infants who are born two weeks prior to their due date
A bruised or bleeding head
A sibling/siblings who experienced jaundice and received medical treatment for it
How Kernicterus is Detected
Kernicterus is diagnosed in infants around 18 months and is performed by a doctor who will retrieve a blood sample by pricking the heel of the foot. The baby’s blood is then tested to measure the levels of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Elevated levels indicate that the baby may be in danger of harboring kernicterus and other health complications, which could lead to serious medical consequences and even fatalities. Other factors like athetotic cerebral palsy, hearing loss, loss of the upward gaze, MRI scans, and a history of severe jaundice.
Treatments for Jaundice and Kernicterus
If jaundice is diagnosed in an infant and requires medical treatment, light therapy or phototherapy is prescribed. Babies with jaundice are placed under special blue lights for a few hours for each session needed, which does not adversely affect the child. In more severe cases of jaundice, when bilirubin levels exceed the normal limit, but kernicterus has not been discovered, the physician will administer a blood transfusion to the baby. Factors such as birth weight, current weight, record of weight loss, and feeding capabilities of the child are assessed before this procedure is approved. Medical professionals agree that jaundice, if treated quickly and properly, can prevent the incidence of kernicterus in babies.
Baltimore Birth Injury Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Fight for Babies Diagnosed with Kernicterus Wrought by Medical Negligence
Kernicterus, a serious case of jaundice that may develop into cerebral palsy, is a rare but entirely preventable disorder if diagnosed early and treated properly in infants. For more information on kernicterus and other serious birth injuries, call LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Baltimore birth injury lawyers. Our offices are available 24 hours a day for emergency cases, and we offer flexible hours in order to serve you and your family.