A guide to neonatal jaundice
What should the junior doctor know?
- By: Ben Green, Lydia Burland, Chris Smith
Neonatal jaundice or hyperbilirubinaemia, is one of the most commonly observed conditions in the newborn infant. It specifically refers to the distinct yellow discolouration of sclera and skin, resulting from the accumulation of bilirubin. Although neonatal jaundice can be the result of serious underlying pathology, it is more typically a normal transitional phenomenon that resolves spontaneously. Around 60% of infants born at term will develop this condition. The risk is inversely proportional to gestational age, with those born before 37 weeks having an 80% risk during the first week of life.1 Treatment might be indicated if the concentration of bilirubin is initially high, if it continues to rise, or if specific pathology is identified; the aim being to prevent complications of hyperbilirubinaemia such as kernicterus, which left untreated can lead to lifelong neurological disability or even death.
Neonatal jaundice is commonly seen in paediatrics, and all doctors working in this