New Jersey Kernicterus Lawyers
Kernicterus is a rare type of brain damage that occurs in some newborn infants with severe jaundice. Jaundice is a yellow coloring of the skin, eyes or other tissue. Kernicterus can occur from elevated levels of bilirubin which travel from the blood into the brain tissue where it causes brain damage to the baby.
When bilirubin levels become elevated in a newborn infant jaundice can develop. Jaundice is the yellowish color that can be seen on the baby’s skin. Although many babies develop jaundice, most of the time this condition goes away by itself within a few days. Jaundice may also be a sign of a blood disorder or liver disease. If a significant amount of bilirubin is allowed to build up, or what is known as hyperbilirubinemia, if not treated may lead to serious and permanent brain damage, which is called kernicterus. It can also lead to hearing loss or deafness, physical problems, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, damage to the muscles which control eye movement, or death.
Parents are advised to watch children with risk factors more closely and immediately seek treatment to determine if the child could be suffering from jaundice. Risk factors include:
• Preterm Babies – babies born before 37 weeks may have a liver that is not fully developed.
• Babies with Darker Skin Color – jaundice could be missed or go unrecognized because of the darker skin color.
• East Asian or Mediterranean Descent – high risk of becoming jaundiced.
• Feeding Difficulties – not eating, wetting or stooling well during their first few days of life have a higher risk of jaundice.
• Sibling With Jaundice – baby is more likely to develop jaundice.
• Bruising – as bruise heals, bilirubin levels are high and could cause jaundice.
• Blood Type – generally, women with an O blood type or Rh negative blood factor give birth to babies with high bilirubin levels.
It is very important that families and medical professionals pay close attention to hyperbilirubinemia and severe jaundice in order to prevent this condition from progressing into kernicterus. If kernicterus has begun to take place the damage to the brain of the baby has already occurred, and parents need to seek treatment immediately to help prevent additional brain damage from happening. As the child gets older, treatments are available to help better cope with the condition including speech therapy, physical therapy, and special education.
• Baby is overly sleepy and lethargic.
• Baby has a high pitched cry that sounds unusual.
• Bab does not wake up easily and once awake, can’t stay awake.
• Baby does not respond to touching.
• Baby has an arched bow-like back and the neck is hyper-extended backwards.
• Baby suffers from seizures or has a fever.
The most important thing to remember is kernicterus can be prevented. This is something all parents of a child with kernicterus need to understand. Doctors can treat severe jaundice with phototherapy or if needed a blood transfusion which will lower the bilirubin levels. Phototherapy will be used for a few days until the baby’s liver is mature enough to dispose of the bilirubin by itself. Phototherapy entails using special light to eliminate the bilirubin in the baby’s blood. The baby’s skin and blood will absorb the light waves from phototherapy and convert the bilirubin into products which can more easily pass through the baby’s system.
If you child or a loved one has suffered a birth injury such as kernicterus as a result of a failure to diagnose and treat severe jaundice or any other type of birth injury, contact the medical malpractice attorneys of O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble for a free no obligation consultation. You can simply contact us online or call 1-908-928-9200 or 1-800-586-5817.