What Is Kernicterus? Attorneys at Ratzan Law Group Explain

Kernicterus is a rare neurological disorder that occurs in some newborns with extreme jaundice. The condition develops during the baby’s first week of life.

Over half of the infants born in the U.S. develop mild jaundice soon after they are born, but generally it is temporary and harmless. Most cases of baby jaundice clear up on their own.

To explain what kernicterus is, we need a basic understanding of jaundice. Infants with jaundice typically have a yellowish tint to the skin. The coloring is due to an excess of a protein in the blood, called bilirubin. Too much bilirubin in the blood is also called Hyperbilirubinemia.

However, in a case of severe jaundice, there is an excessively high build-up of bilirubin in the baby’s blood, which becomes dangerous. At this point, the bilirubin is capable of spreading from the bloodstream into the brain. Once the bilirubin crosses the blood barrier in the brain, the baby suffers brain damage. This damage is called kernicterus.

What are the Effects of Kernicterus?

When not diagnosed and treated quickly or aggressively enough, a baby with severe jaundice can suffer permanent brain damage. The devastating results can range from cerebral palsy, movement disorders, hearing loss, vision problems, mental retardation, and even death.

These catastrophic injuries are entirely avoidable when managed properly. The kernicterus attorneys at Ratzan Law Group have established a nationwide practice representing children harmed by the mismanagement of severe jaundice and kernicterus by doctors and healthcare providers. Parents of children injured by kernicterus have the legal right and the urgent need for fair compensation.

What is the Risk of Kernicterus?

All babies are at risk of developing jaundice – and any baby with untreated jaundice is at risk of developing kernicterus. Medical personnel and neonatal facilities must monitor all newborns closely for jaundice, by following well-established procedures specifically designed to prevent kernicterus from occurring.

Some newborns may possess certain recognized risk factors for severe jaundice, meaning they may be more vulnerable to high bilirubin levels and kernicterus.

A Preventable Birth Injury

Early treatment of high bilirubin is simple and effective. The neonatal time period is a critical time for doctors and nurses to be on alert and prepared to anticipate and intervene immediately when jaundice appears in a newborn.

Delay in diagnosis and treatment of kernicterus is negligence. The consequences to the child last a lifetime; the cost of raising a disabled child is often beyond anyone's reach.

If you suspect your child is threatened by severe jaundice or kernicterus, see your baby’s doctor right away. If caught in time, treatment for bilirubin toxicity is highly effective.

How We Can Help

If your child has sustained brain damage or other complications from improper handling of high bilirubin levels, our firm has the resources, knowledge and strong commitment to help. Legal action, taken by our firm on your behalf, can financially compensate you and your child for medical costs, long-term care, adaptations to the home, pain and suffering, and increase the chances of improving a disabled child's quality of life.

Contact our kernicterus attorneys today for an evaluation of your birth injury claim. Compensation for current and future medical expenses and your family’s emotional damage, if justified, should be vigorously pursued. 

Also see:

What is Kernicterus Caused By?

Excessive Newborn Jaundice - Information for Parents