What Happens If Newborn Jaundice Is Not Detected or Treated?

Jaundice is common amongst newborns. It occurs when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in a baby’s blood. During pregnancy, a mother’s liver takes on the task of removing bilirubin for the baby; however, after birth, the baby’s liver will need to take over. For some babies, their liver is not developed enough to efficiently remove bilirubin. As a result, these babies develop jaundice. When this occurs, a baby’ skin and eyes take on a yellow color.

How Can a Baby Get Jaundice?

Infant jaundice typically occurs because a baby's liver is not able to get rid of bilirubin in the bloodstream. However, some babies may get jaundice due to an underlying disease, including a liver malfunction. Here are some other potential causes of newborn jaundice:

  • Hemorrhage
  • Infection in the baby’s blood
  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Enzyme deficiency
  • Biliary atresia (a condition where the baby’s bile ducts are blocked or scarred)
  • Incompatibility between the mother and baby’s blood
  • Abnormality of the baby’s red blood cells that cause them to break down rapidly

What Happens if Jaundice Goes Untreated?

When severe jaundice goes untreated for an extended period, it can lead to a condition called kernicterus. This happens when bilirubin levels get so high that they start to damage the brain and/or central nervous system. This can cause athetoid cerebral palsy, brain damage, and hearing loss. Additional effects include vision problems and potential intellectual disabilities. It is best to detect and treat jaundice as soon as possible to avoid these risks.

Did your baby suffer from kernicterus due to a doctor or other medical professional’s negligence? If so, you deserve to be compensated for damages. Contact our office online to schedule an initial consultation with us today.

What Are the Symptoms of Jaundice?

While most hospitals have a policy in place to watch out for jaundice in infants, it would still be a good idea to know what signs to look out for just in case.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all newborns be checked for jaundice at least every 8 to 12 hours while in the hospital and between the third and seventh day after birth. You should be concerned if your baby is discharged sooner than 72 hours after birth. If this happens, you should make a follow-up appointment to check for jaundice. Here are some of the signs you should watch out for:

  • Yellow skin and eyes
  • Listlessness
  • Inability to gain weight/refusal to feed
  • High-pitched cries
  • Fever

Medical Malpractice and Untreated Jaundice

As jaundice is very common in infants, your doctor should be able to detect and treat it promptly. If a doctor or other medical professional fails to diagnose and treat your baby’s jaundice, the healthcare provider could be held legally liable for medical malpractice. Additionally, if the healthcare provider caused the jaundice to happen through aggressive forceps or vacuum at birth, missed the symptoms of jaundice, or was negligent and did not check your infant’s bilirubin levels, you should pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit.

Did your child suffer due to untreated jaundice, jaundice complications, and/or kernicterus? Contact our office online today or call us at (718) 866-3664 to schedule a consultation to discuss your legal options.