High levels of bilirubin can cause a condition known as kernicterus which is a form of brain damage. Kernicterus is a preventable injury with devastating results including brain damage, spasticity, movement disorders, deafness, impairment of the ability to gaze upward and dental problems. There is no treatment once kernicterus develops, but it can be prevented by treatment of the elevated bilirubin, including simply leaving an infant under UV lights, monitoring the baby’s blood levels and carefully observing the child.
Dedicated And Knowledgeable Representation
Our birth injury trial and settlement team at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger has handled a number of cases involving injury from failure to diagnose and promptly treat elevated bilirubin levels. When such levels are observed, photo therapy is often successful in treating the disorder. In addition, if after phototherapy bilirubin levels continue to be high, an exchange blood transfusion may be required. We have experience in representing parents whose infants have been misdiagnosed, or injured by a delay in treatment, of hyperbilirubinemia.
Information About Hyperbilirubinemia and Kernicterus
- Jaundice, one of the signs of hyperbilirubinemia, is quite common in newborns. It occurs when the liver manufactures too much of the yellow pigment bilirubin. Bilirubin is a by-product left by broken down red blood cells called “heme.” If too many broken down red cells collect at once, bilirubin builds up in the liver and eventually disburses to the brain, skin and whites of the eyes. Excess bilirubin in the brain can cause severe injury.
- Brain damage typically occurs when a physician or other healthcare provider fails to promptly and properly diagnose jaundice, and thereafter fails to administer proper treatment.
- If a physician neglects to treat babies with severe jaundice, and kernicterus develops, liability exists.
- Symptoms of kernicterus in a child may include increased restlessness, very yellow or “orangey” skin, decreased alertness, high-pitched crying, excessive tiredness, decreased interest in nursing or feeding, and arching of the neck and back. In many cases, kernicterus develops because a child is released too soon from the hospital without proper warning or instruction to the newborn’s parents. If your baby develops kernicterus as a result of untreated or misdiagnosed jaundice, you and your child are entitled to compensation.
- Some medical professionals still believe that the extent to which a baby has visible jaundice is the only indication of how high the baby’s bilirubin level has risen. This is not true. In many infants, especially those with dark skin, jaundice may be difficult to detect visually. Proper laboratory tests are required.
Let Us Help You Take Action After Your Child Has Been Injured
If your child has been injured by jaundice because of medical negligence, we want to hear your story. If medical negligence or medical malpractice was involved, we want to help. Contact the lawyers at Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger in San Francisco for a free consultation. Call us to schedule your appointment: (415) 981-7210.