What is Kernicterus?

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What is Kernicterus?

Kernicterus is a form of brain damage caused by bilirubin, the substance left over when red blood cells die. Bilirubin causes the skin to look yellow and causes jaundice. Jaundice is a common condition; close to 60% of babies born in the U.S. have jaundice for a brief period of time. In most cases, it is harmless. However, if the bilirubin level gets too high in the blood, then some of the bilirubin moves into the brain causing brain damage.

Signs of Kernicterus

Common signs that your baby is suffering from kernicterus include:

  • Dark yellow or even orange-colored skin
  • Regular bouts of lethargy
  • A high-pitched cry
  • A floppy appearance due to lack of muscle tone
  • Arching the head and back in a contorted position

If you suspect your newborn has any of these signs, you should consult a doctor immediately.

Kernicterus Treatment

Kernicterus is treatable. Sometimes doctors will fail to provide treatment to a baby that already has kernicterus, assuming that it is too late to treat the condition. This is an act of gross negligence on the part of the doctor, and it constitutes medical malpractice. Treatment should always be administered, even if the baby has already developed kernicterus. The sooner the bilirubin is reduced in the blood, the more likely your baby’s brain damage will be reduced, which may mean that less of it will be permanent.

Treatment for kernicterus often includes:

  • Phototherapy
  • Medications
  • Blood exchange

If you live in New Jersey or Pennsylvania and believe your child suffered from kernicterus due to a medical error, please contact the New Jersey medical malpractice attorneys at Weiss & Paarz, P.C. today to schedule a consultation.

*The firm handles cases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. For cases outside those states, New Jersey Medical Malpractice Lawyers Weiss & Paarz work with local attorneys in the state where the medical care took place, at no additional cost to the client.


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