A Visual Examination May Not Be Enough To Deal With Jaundice

jaundiceFor centuries, the birth of a yellow baby has indicated the condition of jaundice and is a common examination carried out universally by midwives and other practitioners.

It is a blood bi-product called bilirubin that causes the baby’s skin to go yellow, and high levels of it can result in a serious condition called hyperbilirubinemia.

New research shows that a simple visual skin exam is not enough to rule out the possibility of this condition. In fact only babies with a very normal skin tone are deemed safe and will not require other tests.

Sixty percent of newborns every year have neonatal jaundice and in the majority of cases it simply disappears after a couple of weeks. The baby excretes the excess bilirubin as the liver gradually reduces its level to a normal amount. [Newborn Jaundice]

The new study carried out at the University of Pennsylvania is the very first one to analyze the widely used jaundice evaluation as a pointer to the potential risk from hyperbilirubinemia.

With other five hundred patients studied this was also the largest undertaking in this field. It included a five point scale to grade the degree of yellowing that nurses found on the baby’s body, and it is well documented that the jaundice often moves slowly from the top of the head to bottom of the toes.

All the nurses were unaware of the actual levels of bilirubin that were measured by a different health care professional separately. The biggest area where the difference occurred was in newborns at the 35 to 38 weeks gestation period, significantly this is when there is a higher risk from hyperbilirubinemia.


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