What is elevated bilirubin?
Jaundice is a fairly common and usually harmless occurrence in newborn babies. When babies are born, it is common that their livers have not developed fully. The baby’s liver produces bile, which contains bilirubin, to help break down old red blood cells that the baby is born with. As the infant matures, the liver develops fully and the child’s bilirubin levels stabilize. If not treated properly or taken seriously enough, though, jaundice can result in a serious form of birth injury known as kernicterus or hyperbilirubinemia.
Kernicterus is a brain injury that occurs when the child’s blood level of bilirubin is too high. When high levels of bilirubin are ignored in the child’s blood, the bilirubin can enter the infant’s brain tissue and cause permanent damage. Over half of the infants born in the United States are jaundiced. Jaundice is easy to identify because it turns the infant’s skin yellow, but excessive jaundice may lead to kernicterus if it is not treated properly by doctors.
Explaining The Results of Elevated Bilirubin
If the jaundice is not treated promptly and effectively, the child will suffer brain damage. Babies who suffer brain damage because of elevated bilirubin exhibit several symptoms. First, the baby will become lethargic. A lethargic baby is hard to wake up, or won’t stay conscious very long once it is awake. When the baby’s bilirubin level is dangerously high, it will lapse in a hypotonic state, followed by a hypertonic state. When a baby becomes hypotonic, it loses muscle tone and feels limp or weak when picked up; a hypertonic baby’s muscle tone increases and the child will become tense or rigid.
Los Angeles Birth Injury Attorney
Babies with dangerously high bilirubin levels will not respond to being touched, and may experience seizures. In cases of serious neglect or misdiagnosis, kernicterus may lead to seizures, cerebral palsy, severe brain damage, or loss of hearing. Because slightly elevated bilirubin is common doctors may ignore symptoms of hyperbilirubinemia, resulting in the child being seriously injured. If so, seeking help from an attorney may be wise and a reliable Los Angeles medical malpractice attorney at our firm may be able to help. At Bostwick & Peterson, a trustworthy birth injury lawyer will try to get you financial compensation for an injury sustained by your child because a careless or negligent doctor failed to diagnose your child with hyperbilirubinemia.
Did a doctor fail to diagnose elevated bilirubin in your baby? Contact a birth injury attorney in Los Angeles for help.