Newborn Jaundice Complications
Did your delivery involve a jaundice birth injury?
Did your newborn experience oxygen deprivation or other complications that led to childbirth injuries, like untreated jaundice, because the doctor failed to act quickly?
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys handle fetal death and severe injury cases and can help your family too. Call a Chicago, IL birth injury attorney at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or use the contact form today to schedule a free case evaluation.
In babies, jaundice occurs because the infant's liver is not yet mature enough to shed bilirubin from the infant's bloodstream. Typically, an exchange transfusion of the baby's blood is necessary if the infant has a very high bilirubin level.
Doctors diagnose jaundice in six out of ten children. Unfortunately, jaundice is so common that healthcare providers often fail to diagnose the condition accurately. Sadly, if doctors fail to remove bilirubin from the baby's bloodstream, most infants with neonatal jaundice will suffer a severe medical emergency.
Untreated jaundice complications start with yellowing on the whites of the baby's eyes and skin from the buildup of bilirubin. Jaundice might not appear immediately after birth but a few days afterward. If left untreated, newborn jaundice can cause permanent brain damage (bilirubin encephalopathy).
Chicago, Illinois Medical Malpractice Attorneys Prosecuting Severe Jaundice Cases
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents families with an infant who was not treated for jaundice and other types of medical negligence. Our birth injury law firm has successfully prosecuted medical malpractice cases for our clients who were the victims of medical malpractice.
Our attorneys are available to answer any legal questions on how to receive the monetary compensation you deserve if your family's injuries were a result of someone else's medical negligence. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
Give us a phone call or fill out a contact form today to schedule your free consultation and discuss your legal options. We can give you legal advice about whether you have a malpractice case if we determine the doctor's mistakes were the direct cause of your newborn baby's birth injuries.
Does My Child Have a Birth Injury Because of Its Dull Coloring?
The body rejuvenation process is a normal condition where red blood cells break down and release bilirubin as a metabolic process to eliminate a waste product. The baby's liver needs to remove the substance to avoid the high levels of waste in the red blood cells— known as hyperbilirubinemia.
Jaundice develops when the newborn's liver has not sufficiently developed to cause the removal of bilirubin when it is released. Liver immaturity is the leading cause of newborn jaundice, where the organ cannot filter away bilirubin from the bloodstream at the necessary pace.
It is essential that your doctor test bilirubin levels to accurately diagnose your child's condition to avoid serious health complications that could produce severe lifelong medical problems.
Complications of Kernicterus
Bilirubin levels in newborns often remain elevated for extended periods. However, the unchecked levels can cause a severe medical condition known as kernicterus that may be responsible for other complications such as:
- Movement disorders
- Neurological problems
- Vision problems
- Hearing loss
- Dental problems
- Cerebral palsy
Newborn Jaundice Causes
Many of the risk factors and causes associated with the development of infant jaundice include:
- Premature deliveries if the infant is delivered 36 weeks or earlier in gestation,
- Newborns not receiving sufficient breast milk or formula when the mother's milk has not yet arrived or if the infant is having a difficult time feeding,
- Newborns who do not have a compatible blood type with their mother's type,
- A delivery involving fatal internal bleeding or bruising,
- Newborns with enzyme deficiencies and liver problems that prevent removing dead blood cells,
- Newborn suffering from infection including syphilis or other congenital infection.
- Children with abnormalities in their red blood cells,
- A baby suffering from diseases including problems with their liver, gallbladder, or pancreas, including Gilbert syndrome, Crigler-Najjar syndrome, Rotor syndrome, and Dubin-Johnson syndrome, along with cystic fibrosis, hepatitis, or an immune disorder,
- Breastfed newborn babies,
- Newborn babies that experienced a traumatic or difficult delivery,
- Babies born with abnormal blood cells shapes,
- Inherited disorders
Permanent brain damage caused by kernicterus and untreated jaundice could have been easily avoided using phototherapy, a highly noninvasive treatment requiring placing special lights over the infant.
Infant Jaundice Symptoms
The obvious sign associated with jaundice is the baby's yellowing eyes or skin that could appear immediately or within the first days after birth. Usually, severe jaundice occurs on the face first before traveling to other areas of the body.
Elevated bilirubin levels usually peak in the first week after birth. Therefore, early detection of a high level of bilirubin in infants is the key to treatment.
It is crucial to seek immediate medical treatment if the child's jaundice intensifies or spreads to other body areas or develops a fever of 100°F or higher fever. In addition, the healthcare provider should see the child promptly if their yellowing becomes deeper or develops a high pitched cry, becomes lethargic, or refuses to nurse.
Other known symptoms associated with newborn jaundice include:
- Very fussy behavior
- Inadequate bowel or bladder output
- Inconsolable crying
- High pitch crying
- A floppy, limp, or stiff body
- Bows or arches the heels, neck, or head backward and forward
- Displays unusual eye movements
Treating Newborn Hyperbilirubinemia
Thankfully, newborn jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia) is relatively easy to diagnose and treat in that it's usually considered a severe illness at first. Many cases of infant jaundice are readily apparent from the visible yellowing of the skin and eyes. In infants with darker skin tones, a simple blood test can confirm a diagnosis.
The doctor will likely recommend steps to encourage frequent bowel movements to eliminate the bilirubin substance in the child's body. The healthcare provider might also request that the parents place the infant by a window to receive direct sunlight that can also assist in treating mild forms of jaundice.
Phototherapy is an effective treatment for bilirubin breakdown in the child's skin. The therapy is often administered at the medical center within the first few days or upon readmittance to the hospital specifically to treat the child's jaundice.
The doctor might also recommend that the parents use "bili-blankets" or "bili-lights" to reduce the child's neonatal jaundice condition. In the most severe cases, the healthcare provider will recommend the child go through a blood exchange or blood transfusion if needed.
When diagnosed, most physicians prescribe phototherapy (light therapy) to assist in the breakdown of bilirubin. The failure to diagnose or treat newborn jaundice may be grounds for a medical malpractice claim against the practitioner.
If the Condition is Not Treated
While jaundice itself is not a harmful condition, it can create a myriad of health problems, including irreversible brain damage, if it leads to kernicterus due to elevated levels of bilirubin.
In many cases, the baby's refusal to eat can make the condition worse. Therefore, early detection of untreated jaundice is critical for newborns to prevent kernicterus and other birth injury complications.
Untreated jaundice can lead to:
- Hearing impairment and loss (deafness)
- Vision issues
- Neurological disorders or irreversible brain damage
- Athetoid cerebral palsy produces uncontrollable movement of the face, legs, arms, and other body parts
- Intellectual disability or mental retardation
- Long-term brain damage
- Lack of motor control over muscle movements
- Wrongful death
Preventing Newborn Jaundice
Medical science has yet to identify ways to prevent newborn jaundice. However, expectant mothers can have their blood type tested compared to the newborn baby's blood type to rule out incompatible types that could cause infant jaundice.
Medical professionals can take numerous measures if the newborn baby has too much bilirubin to ensure the condition does not become persistent or severe jaundice and cause catastrophic but preventable medical issues.
The obstetrician or pediatrician will likely recommend that the mother take specific actions that ensure the infant receives adequate nutrition through the mother's breast milk or formula. The treatment requires feeding the child up to twelve times every day in the first week or so after delivery to prevent dehydration.
What To Do
The additional fluids will help the levels of bilirubin process through the baby's liver more quickly.
When feeding the newborn baby formula, ensure that the infant receives one to two ounces every few hours during the first seven to ten days. Recognize that tiny newborn babies require less breast milk or formula than average size newborns.
Speak with the pediatrician if there are any concerns about the baby consuming too much or too little formula.
The newborn baby must be carefully monitored in the first week of life to avoid preventable jaundice complications. Parents and healthcare providers can check for the apparent signs of infant jaundice identified as yellowing in the whites of the eyes and skin that will require immediate medical attention.
Holding the Medical Team Accountable
Jaundice commonly occurs in newborns. Even though health care providers are aware the condition can develop, they often discount the potentially severe associated health risks, believing that the condition will resolve itself in a few days.
However, not treating infant jaundice could create a legal liability due to the medical complications when a child's suffering could have been prevented had the medical team taken acceptable preventative measures and provided appropriate medical care.
A birth injury attorney working on behalf of your family could build a case involving medical malpractice if:
- The hospital or medical center contributed or caused the child's jaundice when using vacuum equipment or aggressively using forceps during the delivery.
- The doctors were unreasonably negligent in not following established protocols and policies to check the child's bilirubin levels, especially in high-risk babies, including premature infants.
- The healthcare provider failed to identify the common symptoms associated with infant
- The doctor did not treat the child for their jaundice but instead allowed it to progress to a severe condition.
Not diagnosing or treating jaundice could be medical negligence. However, these birth injury cases are often complicated and challenging to pursue.
Because of that, families will often hire an experienced personal injury attorney specializing in medical malpractice cases. In addition, a lawyer can ensure the case is filed before the Illinois statute of limitations expires.
Your lawyers will likely build the case on liability showing the medical professional's failure to correctly diagnose and treat infant jaundice timely, including recommending blood transfusions when necessary.
Failing appropriate safety measures might constitute medical malpractice and holds the doctor, nursing team, hospital, and administrator legally responsible for your damages under direct, indirect, or vicarious liability laws.
Your Legal Rights in a Jaundice Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
The medical malpractice attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC understand your child's injuries were not your fault but the responsibility of a negligent medical team. Our personal injury lawyers help parents pursue claims for kernicterus against negligent physicians in Chicago and throughout Illinois.
Our experience handling children's medical malpractice cases has allowed us to develop relationships with the top experts in the fields of medicine, life care planning, and economics. Particularly in birth injury cases where children may need ongoing medical care, our legal team can ensure that your child's needs will be provided in the years ahead.
We accept all personal injury cases, wrongful death lawsuits, and medical mistake injury claims through contingency fee arrangements. This legal contract postpones the payment of legal services until after we have successfully resolved your medical malpractice claim through a negotiated settlement or a jury verdict.
Our law firm will fight aggressively on your behalf because we understand you need money to put your family life back on track. We proudly offer every client a "No Win/No-Fee" Guarantee, meaning if we cannot secure financial compensation on your behalf, you owe us nothing.
Additionally, all confidential or sensitive information you share with our law office remains private through an attorney-client relationship.
Many medical malpractice cases have already been resolved through million-dollar settlements to ensure families have sufficient financial compensation for providing all the treatment and caring their child requires.