Kernicterus is a rare type of brain damage that happens in a newborn with severe jaundice. This happens when bilirubin in the blood builds to a very high level and spreads to brain tissue. Once the brain is damaged, the effects are permanent. Kernicterus could be prevented by catching and treating jaundice at an early stage.
Low-level bilirubin buildup is normal in newborns. Mild jaundice can cause the newborn to have a slightly yellowish tint to the skin and eyes. After birth, it will take a few days for the liver to remove bilirubin from the blood efficiently. Once bilirubin has decreased, mild jaundice will go away. If a newborn shows signs of jaundice at birth, she or he needs to be monitored closely.
Kernicterus has likely already begun if a newborn has one or more of these symptoms:
- Extreme sleepiness and lethargy
- Does not respond to touching
- Does not startle from sudden movements
- An abnormal high-pitched cry
- Poor muscle tone
- Unusual muscle flexing
Long-term damages from kernicterus include:
- Movement difficulties
- Hearing loss or deafness
- Learning problems
- Developmental disabilities
- Problems moving eyes.
Is kernicterus preventable?
Yes, kernicterus is preventable. Once the baby is born and shows signs of jaundice, the doctor will perform blood tests to measure the bilirubin levels in the newborn. An elevated level of bilirubin requires treatment right away. Phototherapy and blood transfusions are the usual treatments that will be used. The baby should also be fed every one to three hours for the first few weeks to help the body get rid of the bilirubin through urine and stool.
Kernicterus can have life-long consequences to a baby and its family. A Kernicterus diagnosis needs to be investigated immediately to determine if the injury was preventable. Unfortunately, in most cases, there is significant evidence that Kernicterus could have been prevented. If the doctor fails to administer proper treatment, medical malpractice or negligence could be to blame.
If your baby is suffering from kernicterus, it could be the result of medical malpractice or negligence. Contact an attorney today to have your case evaluated. CALL US ANYTIME (281) 475-4535 or fill out a consultation form here to start the process.