One common condition infants suffer from is jaundice, especially preterm babies. It results in a yellow discoloration of a newborn baby’s skin and eyes. This condition usually occurs because the liver of the infant is not mature enough to rid the bloodstream of bilirubin, resulting in excess bilirubin. Oftentimes, as long as the infant’s jaundice is mild, serious treatment is not necessary. In most cases the infant will respond well to noninvasive therapy. Complications to jaundice are rare; however severe infant jaundice or poorly treated jaundice can lead to brain damage.
Bilirubin is toxic to brain cells. Babies with severe jaundice are at risk of bilirubin entering into the brain. Prompt treatment is needed for any chance of preventing significant permanent damage to the brain.
Mild infant jaundice will often disappear on its own in two or three weeks. However, infants with moderate to severe jaundice may need to stay in the newborn nursery longer or be readmitted to the hospital. Doctors will usually treat these cases by putting babies under lights for phototherapy, or in extreme cases, a blood transfusion.
In one Brooklyn case, a newborn was discharged from the hospital less than 48 hours after being born, even though he was suffering from a severe case of jaundice. He had been released from the hospital without a proper exam or follow up, despite complaints from the mother about the boy’s yellowing skin and eyes. As a result he is now permanently handicapped, unable to use his arm and legs.
Once home the newborn became worse until he started vomiting. His parents then rushed him to a different hospital where he was diagnosed with hyperbilirubinemia, which is a severe case of jaundice that causes brain damage and cerebral palsy. Two blood transfusions were performed but the damage had already been done. The hospital where the baby was born was found liable to the family for $25 million. This will allow the family to continue to provide their son with 24 hour a day care.
If you or a loved one has had an infant to has been injured because of untreated or improperly treated jaundice contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
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