Can Jaundice Lead to Cerebral Palsy?

Posted on April 22, 2021 by Shapiro Law Group

Kernicterus is a severe form of cerebral palsy known to be associated with high bilirubin levels in a baby’s blood. Bilirubin is a pigment produced in the liver that can lead to jaundice, the yellowing of the eyes and skin, if it is not broken down quickly enough. In most cases, jaundice will resolve without treatment; however, when it does not, the baby is at risk of developing kernicterus.


Jaundice is typically treated with phototherapy, which uses special lights to convert bilirubin into a substance that can be excreted naturally. When phototherapy fails, doctors consider performing an exchange transfusion. This procedure involves the exchanging of the baby’s blood with that of a donor. The procedure can be risky, leading to blood clots, blood pressure issues and bleeding. Whether a baby undergoes exchange transfusion or not depends on their bilirubin levels, age, and the presence or absence of additional risk factors for brain damage.

In a study meant to research the association between bilirubin and kernicterus, only three of the over 100,000 babies developed kernicterus. All three babies were well above the bilirubin threshold for allowing treatment with exchange transfusion. Thus, as long as the American Academy of Pediatrics’ exchange transfusion guidelines are followed, the risk of developing kernicterus is drastically reduced in babies treated for high bilirubin levels.

My Child Developed Cerebral Palsy Due to Improper Treatment. Can Shapiro Law Group Help Me?

Birth injuries can completely alter a family’s outlook and future. If a doctor’s improper treatment has led to the development of a disorder in your child, you may be entitled to compensation. Our Tampa Bay medical malpractice attorneys offer free consultations for victims of medical malpractice.

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