Kernicterus

Kernicterus and Jaundice

Birth Injury Attorneys Committed to Helping Michigan Families

When babies are born with jaundice, their skin may appear yellow or orange-colored, signifying that their livers are unable to process a chemical called bilirubin. Jaundice is incredibly common, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it affects up to 60% of all babies. When jaundice goes untreated and unmonitored for even a few days, however, this ordinary condition may develop into kernicterus: A rare form of preventable brain damage with lasting consequences for infants.

If physicians do not take parental concerns about jaundice seriously, or if they delay treatment without a reason, it may make them liable for financial damages. At Grewal Law PLLC, our Michigan kernicterus injury attorneys can help you seek compensation if your baby was diagnosed with kernicterus as a result of physician negligence. With over 100 years of experience, our birth injury team will support your family during this difficult time and seek the closure that your family deserves.

Contact our medical malpractice and birth injury team today at (888) 211-5798.

What Causes Jaundice?

Newborn jaundice is caused by excessive levels of bilirubin, a waste compound that can become toxic when levels become too high. Bilirubin is produced whenever old red blood cells are broken down or destroyed. When the liver is working properly, bilirubin will be broken down into bile salts before leaving the body through excretion. During pregnancy, a mother’s liver will process bilirubin for her child – but if the baby’s liver has not developed enough by the time of delivery, it may not be able to regulate this substance in the bloodstream, leading to jaundice.

Newborn jaundice can be identified by the following telltale symptoms:

  • Yellowish or orange-colored skin, especially on the head
  • Unusual fussing and crying
  • Stiff, limp, and floppy limbs
  • Inability to latch or feed
  • Strange darting eye movements
  • Lack of urine and feces elimination
  • Sleeping too much or too little

Is Kernicterus Preventable?

Without early detection and treatment, jaundice can develop into kernicterus within two to five days after birth, causing lasting damage to the central nervous system in the process. It’s unknown exactly what triggers ordinary jaundice to become kernicterus, as not every baby with jaundice will develop the condition and there are other risk factors involved. However, because of the serious risks to the child’s health and wellbeing, hospitals should monitor babies for symptoms of jaundice at least every 8 to 12 hours in the first 48 hours after delivery – and then again at the 3-5 day mark.

Risk factors that make a kernicterus diagnosis more likely:

  • Family history of jaundice
  • Sepsis
  • Differing blood groups between mother and baby
  • Excessive bruising during birth process
  • Premature or early birth
  • Bruising conditions

The Consequences of Kernicterus

There are many known medical treatments that can stimulate bilirubin processing and alleviate kernicterus, from plasmaparesis to phototherapy or “light therapy.” In some rare cases, the infant may also need a liver transplant in order to survive. However, depending on how early the disease was caught and treated, your child can develop serious brain damage, causing health issues that may continue for life. When untreated altogether, kernicterus can also lead to a tragic (and entirely preventable) death.

Some of the most well-known side effects of kernicterus:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Epilepsy and seizure disorders
  • Vision and hearing loss
  • Coma and death
  • Movement disorders
  • Developmental disorders
  • Paralysis

Because kernicterus is so easy to prevent and treat, physicians have a clear responsibility to monitor newborns for the signs of this condition, and to be on high alert for any risk factors. If your medical team did not take enough care to monitor for this disease, you could be entitled to compensation for your losses, as restitution for past and future medical costs, pain and suffering, and other damages. At Grewal Law PLLC, our Michigan attorneys have helped many families navigate a kernicterus injury claim and seek justice. If you believe that negligence contributed to your child’s diagnosis, we encourage you to call our compassionate team today for a free consultation.

Need to speak with an attorney? Contact us at (888) 211-5798 today for more information.