Jaundice is an extremely common condition in newborn infants and normally does not create a problem. It causes the newborn’s skin and the white part of the eyes to look yellow. While it is relatively easy to spot, if not properly treated it can cause kernicterus, a type of serious brain damage. Kernicterus can also produce hearing loss, seizures, cerebral palsy, loss of vision and behavior problems. If you suspect your child’s brain injury could have been prevented but was not because of negligence or malpractice by a medical provider, contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case and a recommended course of action.

In healthy infants, some amount of jaundice usually appears within the first 2 to 4 days of life and normally goes away on its own within one or two weeks. Bilirubin is made when the body breaks down old red blood cells. The placenta normally conducts the job of getting rid of excess bilirubin, but once the baby is born, the newborn’s liver must take over the function.Jaundice occurs because the infant’s body has more bilirubin than it can get rid of through urine and stool.

Jaundice that leads to kernicterus is caused by an excessive buildup of bilirubin that makes its way out of the blood and into the tissues of the brain. In an adult, the blood-brain barrier has matured and protects the brain from the effects of excess bilirubin, but this response has not yet matured in infants. If physicians fail to diagnose and treat the condition on a timely basis, they may sometimes be held responsible for negligence. Consult a medical malpractice attorney who has experience in birth injury cases for advice on your case.

Some of the symptoms that can surround kernicterus include:

Increased fatigue and difficulty arousing infant
Decreased or increased muscle tone (hypotonic or hypertonic)
Tilting head
High pitched cry
Fever
Severe contortion of the head

Some babies with more severe cases of jaundice are treated with phototherapy. They are put under a type of fluorescent light and their skin absorbs the light which enables the body to more easily get rid of the excess bilirubin. Some require a blood transfusion and on occasion a special fiber optic blanket is used. It is critical that the baby’s bilirubin levels do not escalate out of control and result in brain damage.

Failure to diagnose severe jaundice that may lead to kernicterus may be medical malpractice but not always. It is important to talk to a medical malpractice attorney about the details of your case and possible financial remedies.

 

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