While six out of ten children are born with jaundice that is diagnosed as a relatively minor condition, without proper medical care neonatal jaundice can cause severe medical issues. Newborn jaundice appears as a yellowing on the whites of the baby's eyes and skin from the buildup of bilirubin. The condition might not appear immediately after birth but a few days afterward. If left untreated, newborn jaundice can cause brain damage.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents families with a newborn who was not treated for jaundice and other types of professional negligence. Our law firm has successfully prosecuted 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 negligence. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
Should I be Concerned?
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. To maintain good health, the liver needs to remove the substance to avoid the high levels of waste in the blood— known as hyperbilirubinemia.
Jaundice develops when the newborns 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 important that your doctor properly diagnose your child's condition to avoid serious health complications that could produce severe lifelong medical problems.
Complications from Kernicterus
Bilirubin levels in newborns often remain elevated for extended periods. However, the unchecked levels can cause a serious 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
Many of the risk factors and cause associated with the development of newborn jaundice include:
- Premature deliveries if the newborn 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 newborn 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 liver problems or enzyme deficiencies.
- Newborn suffering with an infection including syphilis or other congenital infection.
- Children with red blood cell abnormalities.
- 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 babies
- Newborns that experienced a traumatic or difficult delivery
- Babies with abnormal blood cells shapes
- Inherited disorders
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 few days after birth. Jaundice tends to develop in the face first before traveling to other areas of the body. Elevated bilirubin levels usually peak in the first week after birth.
It is important to seek immediate medical care if the child's jaundice intensifies or spreads to other areas of the body, or if the child develops a fever of 100°F or higher. The doctor should see the child quickly if their yellowing becomes deeper or they develop a high pitch criy, become lethargic or listless, or refused 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. 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 that can eliminate the bilirubin substance on the child's body. The doctor might also request that the parents place the newborn 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 doctor 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 brain damage, if it leads to kernicterus due to elevated bilirubin levels. In many cases, the baby's refusal to eat can make the condition worse. Untreated jaundice can lead to:
- Hearing loss (deafness)
- Vision issues
- Neurological disorders
- Athetoid cerebral palsy that produces uncontrollable movement of the face, legs, arms, and other body parts
- Intellectual disability
- 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 that can be compared to the newborn's blood type to rule out incompatible types that could cause newborn jaundice. If the child is born with the condition, the doctor can take numerous measures to ensure the jaundice does not become more severe and cause catastrophic, but preventable, medical issues. The obstetrician or pediatrician will likely recommend that the mother take certain actions that include:
Making sure the newborn receives adequate nutrition through the mother's breast milk or through formula. This requires feeding the child up to 12 times every day in the first week or so after delivery to prevent dehydration. The additional fluids will help the bilirubin substance to process through the liver more quickly.
When feeding the baby formula, ensure that the infant receives one to two ounces every few hours during the first seven to ten days. Recognize that small babies require less breast milk or formula and average size newborns. Speak with the pediatrician if there are any concerns about the newborn consuming too much or too little formula.
The baby must be carefully monitored in the first week of life to avoid preventable complications. Parents and doctors can check for the obvious signs of newborn jaundice identified as the yellowing 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 potential risks associated with severe cases, believing that the condition will resolve itself and a few days. However, not treating newborn jaundice could create a legal liability due to the complications a child suffering that could have been prevented had the medical team taken acceptable preventative measures and provided proper care.
An attorney working on behalf of your family could build a case involving medical malpractice if the hospital, medical team, or other health care provider:
- Contributed or caused the child's jaundice when using vacuum equipment or aggressively using forceps during the delivery.
- 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.
- Failed to identify the common symptoms associated with newborn jaundice.
- Did not treat the child for their jaundice but instead allowed it to progress to a severe condition.
Any failure to diagnose or treat your child's jaundice might be considered medical malpractice. However, these cases are often complicated and challenging to pursue. Because of that, families will often hire an experienced personal injury attorney specialized in medical malpractice cases. A lawyer can ensure the case is filed before the Illinois statute of limitations expires.
Your law firm will likely build the case on liability to show that the doctor failed to correctly diagnose and provide timely treatment, including recommending a blood transfusion 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.
Basic Omissions, Severe Complications, Legal Rights
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. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has helped 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 cases where children may need ongoing medical care, our legal team can ensure that your child's needs will be provided for in the years ahead.
Our bilirubin injury team encourages you to contact our attorneys today to schedule a no-case consultation to discuss the merits of your monetary recovery claim at no charge to you. 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 completed your case 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 are unable to secure financial compensation on your behalf you owe us nothing. All information you share with our law office will stay confidential.