Jaundice in Newborns (Neonatal Jaundice)

  • Medical Author:
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

  • Medical Editor: John Mersch, MD, FAAP
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Quiz: Your Baby's First Year!

What are the complications of jaundice in newborns?

The complications associated with neonatal jaundice occur when bilirubin levels reach toxic levels, and the bilirubin gets into the central nervous system and damages the brain. The brain toxicity can either be reversible (early acute bilirubin encephalopathy) or the damage may be permanent and irreversible (kernicterus). Permanent damage may lead to cerebral palsy, deafness, and intellectual impairment.

Can jaundice in newborns be prevented?

Some degree of jaundice in newborns is normal and not entirely preventable. However, the prevention of significant hyperbilirubinemia and its complications is possible through proper screening (obtaining bilirubin levels), identifying newborns at high-risk, close surveillance and monitoring of those infants with hyperbilirubinemia, parent education, and prompt treatment when deemed medically indicated.

What is the prognosis of jaundice in newborns?

Generally speaking, the prognosis for newborns with jaundice is excellent if they receive the appropriate monitoring and treatment, and the vast majority of infants with neonatal jaundice will improve with no adverse effects. However, health care professionals need to remain vigilant and parents need be informed and educated about the potential dangers of severe hyperbilirubinemia in order to prevent the devastating consequences of kernicterus.

Medically reviewed by Douglas Barton, MD; Board Certified Pediatrics

REFERENCES:

CDC.gov.Jaundice and Kernicterus.

MedscapeReference.com. Neonatal Jaundice.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/30/2015

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