When severe jaundice is not treated for a long time, it can lead to kernicterus. Kernicterus is a type of brain damage that can happen when a baby's blood has too much bilirubin in it.
There are several causes of excessive increase in bilirubin such as too much red blood cells, increased breakdown of red blood cells, birth injuries, low levels of albumin, obstruction in the biliary system, genetics, and problems with the breast milk fed to the baby.
The illness is more common in boys than girls, and it mostly affects children of African American and South Asian descent. The disease occurs in babies of both sexes but boys were found to be more affected. A higher incidence of kernicterus is also seen in premature infants compared to full-term babies.
If the baby presents with any of the following:
The following tests are used for diagnosing and treating kernicterus:
The main goal of treating kernicterus is to stop neurotoxicity by lowering the level of bilirubin. There are three main parts of treatment and prevention for hyperbilirubinemia.
Intravenous Immunoglobulins (IVIG) are used to treat conditions that are caused by the immune system or when Rh, ABO, or other blood group incompatibilities cause a lot of jaundice in babies.
Proper prenatal care can help doctors and the mother get ready for any complications that could make the baby more likely to get hyperbilirubinemia. All babies who leave the hospital within 48 to 72 hours of birth should have a medical checkup. Any baby whose family has a history of hyperbilirubinemia, preterm birth, birth injuries like cephalohematoma, or other problems should be watched more closely. The parents should be told how to feed their child properly and how important breastfeeding is. They should be taught to go to the doctor if they notice warning signs like less activity, a change in mental state, or a weak sucking reflex.
Reddy DK, Pandey S. Kernicterus. [Updated 2022 Aug 28]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559120/
National Organization for Rare Diseases (2022). Kirnecterus. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/kernicterus/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). What are Jaundice and Kernicterus?. Retrieved December 9, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/jaundice/facts.html#:~:text=Kernicterus%20is%20a%20type%20of,sometimes%20can%20cause%20intellectual%20disabilities.