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Newborn Jaundice (cont.)

Newborn Jaundice Medical Treatment

  • Significant jaundice is often treated with phototherapy. This involves placing the baby on a warmer beneath special lights.
    • These lights are able to penetrate a baby's skin and affect the bilirubin within the child. The light changes bilirubin into lumirubin, which is easily handled by the baby's body.
    • This treatment may seem much like a visit to a local tanning booth. Special goggles or a shade is placed over the baby's eyes to shield them from the lights.
  • Two factors help decide whether or not to start phototherapy: the age of the child and the level of bilirubin.
    • Younger children with higher bilirubin levels will more often require treatment.
    • The decision to begin phototherapy depends on the opinion of your pediatrician and on your comfort level.
  • If standard phototherapy doesn't work to reduce a baby's bilirubin level, the doctor may try other treatments. For example, the baby may be placed on a fiber optic blanket and an additional bank of lights may be added.
  • If these treatments don't work, babies most often have a serious condition that is causing their jaundice. Physiologic jaundice (the most common form) almost never requires treatment beyond phototherapy.
  • When all other treatments have failed to reduce the bilirubin level enough, the last resort is an exchange transfusion. In this treatment, the baby's blood is exchanged with donated blood. This is a very specialized procedure and is done only in facilities capable of caring for critically ill children.
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Jaundice is the most common condition that requires medical attention in newborns.

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