Newborns and premature babies often have jaundice because of elevated levels of bilirubin (orange and yellow bile pigments) in the blood. A baby with newborn jaundice will display the classic symptoms of “yellowing” in the skin and in the whites of the eyes. At The Law Office of Robert H. Kleinschmidt, P.C., our Scottsdale attorney knows that a doctor’s failure to diagnose, monitor or treat an infant with excessive levels of bilirubin (known as hyperbilirubinemia) can be grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is vital that infants with hyperbilirubinemia receive immediate medical attention, as the condition can be life-threatening or cause long-term neurological damage to a child.
Causes Of Hyperbilirubinemia
Bilirubin is naturally present in the body. As the body creates new blood cells every day, it breaks down the old ones. Bilirubin is the waste product left behind. The liver helps to break down bilirubin, remove it from the blood and eliminate it from the body in the stools.
When a baby is still in the womb, the placenta removes bilirubin from the child. It is then processed by the mother’s liver. Once a child is born, his or her own liver must take over. Often, a newborn’s immature liver is unable to remove excessive bilirubin as efficiently or completely as it does later on in development. High levels of bilirubin in a newborn’s bloodstream is known as hyperbilirubinemia.
Conditions That Contribute To ‘Physiologic Jaundice’
Newborn jaundice is usually not an indication of underlying disease. In fact, it is normal for bilirubin levels to rise a few days after birth because the body is rapidly destroying the old “fetal-type” hemoglobin and replacing it with newer “adult-type” hemoglobin. This is known as “physiologic jaundice.” This type of jaundice usually clears within two weeks, when the breakdown of old red cells slows and the baby’s liver matures.
Although physiologic jaundice is normally harmless, certain conditions or diseases may cause “pathological” or severe jaundice in your baby such as:
- Rh or ABO blood-group incompatibility between mother and child
- Certain breast-feeding babies who suffer from low calorie intake or dehydration
- Internal bleeding
- Congenital liver defects or enzyme deficiencies
- Blood infection, sepsis
- Hypoxia (oxygen deprivation due to birth injury or illness)
- Blood beneath the skull from vacuum extraction or birth trauma injuries
Bilirubin Encephalopathy: Life-Threatening Condition
When bilirubin levels climb too high in a newborn, it can be toxic. Excessive bilirubin can infiltrate areas of a baby’s spinal cord and brain and cause neurological damage and seizures. The condition is called bilirubin encephalopathy (also known as kernicterus) and is life-threatening.
A baby suffering from bilirubin encephalopathy may display all or some of the following symptoms:
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin beginning from the face, down toward body)
- Lethargy, irritability, lack of interest in feeding
- Rigidity of arms and legs, arched neck or back
- High-pitched cry
- Bulging soft spot
Seeking Legal Guidance From A Malpractice Legal Professional? Contact Us.
Our attorney in Arizona is sadly aware that undiagnosed newborn jaundice can lead to lifelong brain injuries. We are relentless in our efforts to pursue the type of settlement or jury award that can pay for your child’s long-term health needs. You are under no obligation to pay our lawyer’s fees unless we are successful in winning you a settlement or favorable verdict. Please call us at 480-951-3949 or contact us online to arrange for a free case analysis with a lawyer from The Law Office of Robert H. Kleinschmidt, P.C. We represent people throughout the greater Phoenix area.