Kernicterus Symptoms to Watch For When You Leave the Hospital

Know the Symptoms of Kernicterus that Indicate a Possible Medical Emergency

Kernicterus is a rare but catastrophic injury to the brain, which occurs when doctors fail to observe and treat elevated bilirubin (jaundice) in a newborn. Although healthy at delivery, an infant with jaundice can suddenly be the victim of lifelong brain damage, resulting in cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders. 

This birth injury is totally preventable if infants who are at risk are identified and treated appropriately. All babies, when they are discharged from the nursery, should have a bilirubin level taken to establish whether they are at risk.

Kernicterus Symptoms That Parents Can Monitor

Levels of bilirubin do not peak until at least 3 days after the baby is born. Most mothers leave the hospital with their newborn before then. Here are kernicterus symptoms to watch for, once the baby is at home.

If these signs of kernicterus occur, do not wait. Get to a hospital where proper medical attention can be taken immediately if your baby

  • Shows the yellow hue of jaundice;
    Jaundice is seen first on the baby’s face. As the bilirubin levels increase, the yellow coloring progresses to the chest, stomach, arms and legs. If your baby has a darker skin tone, jaundice may be hard to see. You can try checking the gums and inside of the lips. The whites of the eyes also may appear yellow.
  • is limp or floppy;
  • is stiff and rigid;
  • has strange eye movements;
  • is hard to wake up, even to feed;
  • will not sleep and is irritable or inconsolable;
  • is having a hard time feeding, has poor sucking reflex, or has a hard time staying latched on to the nipple;
  • has too few wet or dirty diapers;
  • fever (temperature over 100°);
  • is “arching” – the head or neck and heels are arching (bending) backwards, like a bow;
  • cries with a high-pitched cry or shrill scream.

What Can Expecting Parents Do to Prevent Kernicterus?

Know ahead of time if your baby is at risk for jaundice. The following conditions are all situations that you can establish before the baby comes. Inform your doctor, and make certain that the test for bilirubin level gets done.

  • A history of jaundice in any of the baby’s siblings
  • Mediterranean and East Asian heredity can contribute to a higher risk of newborn jaundice
  • Genetic condition of G6PD deficiency causes a higher risk of jaundice
  • If the mother has an O blood type or Rh negative blood factor, the baby may be at a higher risk

Read more about kernicterus symptoms 

Kernicterus Information Center

Kernicterus results in a lifetime of devastating consequences for a child and the family. This demands full investigation of the neonatal procedures used, to find out why this tragedy was not prevented. Ratzan Law Group is a medical malpractice law firm with a record of outstanding results for families around the country and throughout Florida in cases involving birth injury.

Our firm shares an intense commitment to seek justice for victims of birth injury malpractice, and make a difference in lives. Contact us to learn how we can help you.