Definition of Neonatal Jaundice

A condition in which the newborn infant’s liver cannot yet properly destroy old erythrocytes (red blood cells), resulting in the accumulation of bilirubin in the blood circulation.

The excessive bilirubin, a pigmented protein compound, gives the skin a characteristic yellowish orange hue.

Neonatal jaundice, also called physiologic jaundice of the newborn, is more common in infants born before 37 weeks gestational age because of the immaturity of their livers.

Treatment

Mild neonatal jaundice clears on its own within a few days. The doctor may prescribe photolight therapy (also called phototherapy) for moderate neonatal jaundice, a treatment that exposes the infant’s skin to short periods of ultraviolet light.

Ultraviolet light expedites the chemical breakdown of the bilirubin so the body can excrete it.

Circumstances of jaundice in a newborn may result from numerous pathologic causes including biliary atresia (absence of the bile ducts), bowel atresia (absence of the large intestine), hemolytic disease of the newborn (Rh incompatibility), and congenital hepatitis b.

See also ANEMIA; BLOOD TYPE; ERYTHROCYTE.

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