The Role of Prematurity in Developing Kernicterus
Most experts agree that premature babies have elevated levels of bilirubin in their bloodstreams. This causes them to develop jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes. With proper diagnosis and treatment jaundice usually resolves itself. When medical personnel fail to identify and treat jaundice, the result can be kernicterus, a condition that can cause permanent brain damage and death if bilirubin crosses the blood-brain barrier.
Our law firm, Todd & Weld LLP, handles kernicterus cases throughout the United States. Our attorneys have developed significant experience in these types of medical malpractice cases, giving us a high level of knowledge about the complex legal issues that arise in these matters. We offer clients personal attention and the information they need to develop a strategy for helping their children.
Increased Risk for Premature Infants
There are testing and treatment protocols that are used in full-term and near full-term infants that have eliminated most cases of kernicterus. It is all the more important to address the possibility of jaundice in infants born before 35 weeks of gestation, because there is evidence that premature infants are more likely to experience high bilirubin which penetrates the blood-brain barrier. This increases the possibility that newborn jaundice may develop into kernicterus.
Preterm infants must be monitored closely to ensure that timely treatment is begun before jaundice develops into kernicterus. Usually preterm babies in the hospital will have frequent blood tests to determine bilirubin levels, among other things.
Many preterm infants experience developmental delays as they mature and often these are not related to their bilirubin. However, unusual delays, along with hearing problems in a child who was premature, may raise a concern about kernicterus in the child.
In many instances, a firm diagnosis of kernicterus is not made until the child is many months or even years old, when they fail to meet developmental guidelines, such as standing, walking or talking. The most common result of kernicterus is deafness or hearing impairment, along with cerebral palsy, which causes an array of disabilities and deficits and has no cure.
We invite you to learn more about kernicterus. Visit our Resources page or follow the links below for additional information. We advocate for families nationwide whose premature newborns suffered this condition because of medical negligence at birth.
To learn how Todd & Weld LLP can advocate for you in a kernicterus case, contact our lead kernicterus practice area partner, attorney Jeffrey N. Catalano, at 617-624-4789.