Test predicts risk of serious jaundice

Jan. 10, 2008 at 4:56 PM

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Medical screening could help predict which of the 4 million U.S. newborns annually should be monitored to avoid complications of jaundice.

The study, published in Pediatrics, found measuring the bilirubin in every baby and combining that information with the baby's gestational age accurately predicts which infants are at very high risk and which ones are at very low risk.

Neonatal jaundice -- skin yellowing caused by the buildup of the blood product bilirubin which appears in about 60 percent of babies born in the U.S. -- usually goes away on its own, but in a small number of newborns it can progress to brain damage.

"The challenge facing every pediatrician who takes care of newborn babies is to identify those infants they send home that will develop a bilirubin level that could cause injury," study lead author Dr. Ron Keren of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said in a statement.

Keren said that out of 823 newborns in the study about 70 percent of babies fell into the low-risk category, while 13 percent were designated high risk and 17 percent were in the middle.

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