Can Infant Jaundice Cause a Brain Injury if Left Untreated?

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 8-Sep-2017

Medical mistakes made before, during or after birth can lead to permanent health complications that may significantly reduce the quality of life for newborns and their families. In many cases, newborns who are harmed by medical mistakes will require specialized care for the rest of their lives. For example, if a newborn develops a severe case of jaundice and it remains untreated, they may be at risk of suffering permanent brain damage.

Jaundice is a common health condition in newborns that causes yellowing of the eyes or skin. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 60 percent of newborns will develop some degree of jaundice. This condition is caused by a high level of bilirubin in the bloodstream.

Severe cases of jaundice are dangerous because bilirubin is toxic to brain cells. If bilirubin passes through the brain, it may cause acute bilirubin encephalopathy, which may lead to permanent brain damage. Newborns with this condition may develop hearing loss, athetoid cerebral palsy and cognitive problems. Bilirubin encephalopathy, which is sometimes referred to as kernicterus, can also be fatal.

According to the CDC, newborns should undergo screening for jaundice within three to five days. This is when a newborn is most likely to have high bilirubin levels. The CDC also maintains that some newborns have risk factors that can lead to more severe cases of jaundice. Newborns with these risk factors should be closely monitored. For example, premature babies are more like likely to develop severe jaundice because their livers have a more difficult time filtering bilirubin.

Is Kernicterus Caused by Medical Malpractice?

Jaundice, even severe cases, can be treated by hospitals. Severe cases of jaundice can also be detected with certain medical tests. Newborns who develop bilirubin encephalopathy may be victims of medical negligence. Parents of these children might have legal options to pursue damages against the hospital or other parties.

If your child was harmed by a medical mistake, then the Washington DC medical malpractice lawyers at Regan Zambri Long, PLLC can help you determine whether you have options to file a lawsuit for damages.

Categories: Medical Malpractice
Blog Home