Delays in Treating Kernicterus Can Cause Serious Birth Injuries

When There is a Delay in Treating Kernicterus, it Can Result in Serious Medical Complications


Kernicterus is a preventable form of brain damage which occurs to newborns with jaundice.  The jaundice is caused by a dangerous build up of bilirubin in a newborns blood, which causes the classic yellow coloring of the skin and other tissue.  While this is actually normal in most infants, even up to 80% of all infants develop some form of jaundice, when the bilirubin levels stay too high and do not correct itself there could be a serious medical emergency.  When that medical emergency is not recognized or treatment is delayed, it can result in irreversible brain damage due to this birth injury.


Signs of Kernicterus that Are More Than Jaundice 


Jaundice is the yellowing of one’s skin and other tissue.  While all kernicterus exhibits jaundice, not all jaundice means kernicterus.  You need to know when jaundice is that something more and kernicterus to protect your newborn.  There are some symptoms which differentiate jaundice from kernicterus.  These include the following:


  • Fever;
  • Refusing to eat or trouble feeding;
  • Drowsiness;
  • Lethargy or lack of energy;
  • Unusual eye movements;
  • Muscle spams or stiffness of the whole body;
  • Limpness or reduced muscle tone;
  • Excessive crying, particularly shrill or high-pitched crying; and
  • Many other symptoms.


If you observe any of these symptoms, you need to let your newborn’s doctor know right away to begin an evaluation.  If you delay, other more serious symptoms which can be life-threatening can develop, including seizures, involuntary muscle movements, and sensory problems (hearing, vision).


What Happens When Kernicterus Treatment is Delayed?


When there are delays in treating kernicterus, there can be very serious complications.  Delays allow the bilirubin to remain in the body at high levels.  While this bilirubin is a normal chemical in everyone’s body, your liver and kidneys are able to filter it out.  However, newborns and especially premature or weak/ill newborns may not have the kidney and liver function just yet to filter out the bilirubin.  This means that it can become a toxin in the body.


Thus, when bilirubin is allowed to accumulate in too high of levels it results in kernicterus.  This is a type of brain damage that causes yellow staining of the brain’s grey matter.  This means that the brain’s processing power is actually being affected by the bilirubin.  This staining affects the way the brain functions.  The longer there is a delay in treating kernicterus, the more brain damage there will be due to kernicterus.  Some common damage due to kernicterus includes the following:


  • Movement disorders;
  • Hearing loss or deafness;
  • Impairment of eye movements;
  • Development of cerebral palsy;
  • Causing learning disabilities; and
  • Many other damages.


If Your Newborn Was Injured Due to Kernicterus, Call a Minneapolis Birth Injury Lawyer to Learn Your Rights


Delays in treating kernicterus should not occur when the medical staff is competently treating a patient.  Kernicterus is very preventable and avoidable, but sometimes can throw some physicians and healthcare providers off because there will be jaundice in 80% of newborns.  But there are still markers and tests that need to be performed to ensure the jaundice is not progressing into kernicterus.


If your loved one has suffered serious injury due to a delay in treating kernicterus, please call out Minnesota birth injury lawyer at Kuhlman Law, LLC.  We handle medical malpractice cases throughout Minnesota including St. Paul, Minneapolis, Rochester, Duluth, and many other cities.  Get your FREE consultation by dialing (612) 444-3374 to learn what your rights to compensation may be.  You may also contact us using our easy and convenient “contact us” box at the bottom of our website.  If we accept your case, we will conduct a thorough review of your case and advise you whether there may have been a serious medical mistake causing your injury.   There is no risk, and you do not owe us money unless we win your case.


We also handle cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton, and Hillsboro.  Our Oregon office number is (541) 385-1999.  

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