Jaundice is easily treated if recognized and treated properly. However if it is not treated properly it can lead to more serious birth injuries such as hearing loss or brain damage. When the undeveloped liver of a newborn cannot completely cleanse the waste material bilirubin from the baby’s system the baby develops jaundice. Babies that are born premature, suffer bruising during birth, the mother had maternal diabetes, or the baby had a different blood type than the mother are at risk of jaundice.
The symptom that is most easily recognized is a yellow tinge to the skin and eyes. This tinge usually occurs between the second and fourth days after birth. The tinge can spread through the infant’s body if left untreated. It has been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that newborns be checked for jaundice ever 8 to 12 hours while in the hospital following the infant’s birth.
Phototherapy is the usual treatment for jaundice. It requires putting the newborn under a special light that converts the bilirubin’s structure to allow for easy elimination in the infant’s urine or stool. If the case is more serious then the infant may require a blood exchange transfusion to replace the high-bilirubin blood with bilirubin-free blood.
When a New York medical malpractice claim is filed involving injuries to infants, including cases of jaundice that lead to permanent injury, the settlements can be substantial. For example, the family of a baby girl who lost her hearing due to jaundice was awarded a $1.5 million settlement. In this case the baby ha bilirubin levels and was given phototherapy but there was no follow-up testing until the mother insisted on it two days later. At that point, the baby had three times the acceptable amount of bilirubin in her blood and despite being given treatment it was too late. She had permanent hearing loss and is now experience speech problems.
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