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Kernicterus: a preventable type of brain damage in newborns

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2015 | Birth Injuries

One of the most heartbreaking aspects of many birth injuries is that they are almost entirely preventable. Kernicterus, for instance, is a type of brain damage in newborn babies that is caused by extreme jaundice. Given that jaundice is easily detectable and treatable in the vast majority of cases, incidents of kernicterus should be practically unheard of. Unfortunately, though, babies across the state of Massachusetts continue to be diagnosed with kernicterus. The attorneys at Donovan & O’Connor, L.L.P., advocate on behalf of you and other birth-injury claimants, and strive to spread awareness about kernicterus and other preventable conditions.

Web M.D. discusses kernicterus, and explains that it is caused by the excessive buildup of bilirubin in a newborn baby’s bloodstream, which is caused by severe jaundice. The bilirubin spreads from the blood to the baby’s brain tissue, causing permanent brain damage. The buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream immediately after birth is not uncommon, and mild jaundice often goes away on its own within a few days. It is only in cases where a baby’s jaundice gets worse that the threat of kernicterus is an issue.

While there are physical signs and symptoms of kernicterus that are known to present in babies, physicians and medical professionals should be able to identify and treat jaundice before it becomes severe. After all, the diagnosis of kernicterus means that the baby has already suffered brain damage.

Fortunately, jaundice can be diagnosed and treated in many cases. In addition to blood testing, bilirubin levels in the bloodstream can be monitored using transcutaneous devices. One of the most effective ways to treat mild to moderate jaundice doesn’t even involve needles, as phototherapy helps the baby’s body process excess bilirubin. In more severe cases, the prompt administration of treatments like IV fluids or a blood transfusion can also prevent kernicterus from setting in.

Birth injuries like kernicterus are irreversible and often result in permanent disability. Learn more about kernicterus and birth injury liability by visiting our web page today.