Newborn Injuries Due to Kernicterus in Oregon

Oregon birth injury lawyer for HIE

Kernicterus: What to Look For and How to Promptly Treat, Our Oregon Attorney Talks

You have made it 40 weeks and finally have a bundle of joy cradled in your arms. Everything went smoothly, but for your baby’s jaundice.  You are told it is quite common and should naturally disappear on its own in a few days. More than a few days have done by, actually weeks now and your baby’s jaundice has not improved. This several jaundice can be serious and cause newborn injuries due to kernicterus.  

That is because severe jaundice that has gone untreated develops into this condition called kernicterus.  It can cause brain damage to the rapidly developing connections in a child’s brain. It may be too late at that point—the damage could be done. What signs could have been noticed along the way to treat the jaundice more effectively as it progressed? What treatments should have or should be used to damage control? We examine all this below. Alternatively, or additionally, you can contact our Oregon kernicterus attorney today to discuss your options.

Jaundice to Kernicterus, Moderate to Severe Issues

Kernicterus is often associated with jaundice, which is one of the most common conditions an infant can be born with or develop. Approximately 3 in 5, or 60 percent of infants have jaundice, and more often than not, it resolves itself in a few days or weeks. While kernicterus is related to jaundice, it is in a category of its own, severity wise. Kernicterus is a severe form of jaundice, and although rare, unlike jaundice, can prove debilitating, fast. 

Kernicterus is a very severe and uncontrolled form of jaundice. Jaundice is when an infant appears to be yellow, both in their skin and whites of their eyes. This coloring appears because there is a buildup of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Bilirubin is the yellow pigment portion of a red blood cell. The infant is not capable of filtering out the excess bilirubin because their liver is not mature enough, as they are infants. A newborn with jaundice would not have had jaundice while in the womb because the mother’s liver was helping to filter out this excess bilirubin. Jaundice may be normal for an infant within a few days or weeks of their life, and it usually goes away naturally. However, if it remains past two to three weeks, there may be a much more serious issue at hand: kernicterus.

Kernicterus itself is simply a severe form of jaundice that can cause long-term brain damage and hearing loss if left untreated. It is when there is even more excessive bilirubin in the bloodstream than with jaundice, hence why it is a more severe jaundice. Sometimes, there is so much bilirubin causing kernicterus because of an underlying health condition, on either the mother of infant’s behalf. For example, if the mother and infant do not have the same blood type, kernicterus is more of a risk. As well, if there is an intestinal blockage, that can be a cause for concern also.

What to Look for When Diagnosing Kernicterus

If your medical provider has released you and your baby, and has advised that your baby’s jaundice should resolve on its own, it may be wholly up to you to observe any changes in that jaundice. However, if you contact your medical provider with concerns, they need to be dealt with immediately and appropriately. Generally speaking, if you notice any change that causes you concern, contact your medical provider immediately so they can take it from there. Below is a set of signs and symptoms of kernicterus that you should make yourself aware of:

  • Sleeping issues—sleeps too much or too little. Specifically, the infant is difficult to wake up or will not sleep. With respect to being overly tired, it should be noted that infants do sleep a lot, so it needs to be differentiated. A tired infant also does not eat well, has slow reaction times, and constantly appears somewhat asleep.
  • Poor muscle tone—the infant appears “floppy,” weak, stiff, or limp. Also, if the body is shaped like a bow, with the top and bottom parts bent back with the torso facing forward. Abnormal flexing of muscles is another sign.
  • Abnormal sounds—a high-pitched cry that sounds off with or without being inconsolable
  • Fever
  • Strange eye movements
  • Is not breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, or not breastfeeding or bottle-feeding well
  • Does not have many wet or dirty diapers
  • Fussy

How to Promptly Treat Kernicterus

Treatment for kernicterus is focused on decreasing the excessive bilirubin in the infant’s bloodstream. Phototherapy is commonly utilized for this and entails placing a fluorescent light on the newborn’s bare skin, while covering his or her eyes with google-like shields. Phototherapy works to accelerate the speed at which the bilirubin is excreted through urine and fecal matter.

Blood exchange transfusions are also performed to treat kernicterus and prevent long-term damage, like brain damage and hearing loss. For this, the infant’s blood is repeatedly replaced with a donor’s blood in small amounts, until most of the blood is exchanged.

Another procedure for kernicterus is plasmapheresis, which removes toxic substances, such as plasma parts, toxins, and metabolic substances from the bloodstream. Here, the newborn’s blood is withdrawn and the plasma is separated from the blood cells. Following that, the newborn’s plasma is replaced with another human’s plasma. Finally, the new blood and plasma combination is infused back into the newborn.

Finally, liver transplants are sometimes performed, so as to prevent long-term brain damage that is associated with kernicterus. These various treatment options need to be investigated and proposed to you by your infant’s medical care provider after identifying the signs and symptoms of kernicterus. If you have any questions or concerns about this, do not hesitate to contact our Oregon kernicterus attorney now.

Get Help for Kernicterus in Oregon

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice contact the Oregon Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Kuhlman Law at our number below or fill out the intake form.  We offer a free initial case evaluation and handle cases on a contingency fee which means that you pay no money unless we recover.

Our law firm handles cases throughout the state including Bend and Portland Oregon, Redmond, Central Oregon, Sisters, Madras, Multnomah County, Deschutes County, Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, Lane County, Medford, Gresham, La Grande, Albany, Medford, Beaverton, Umatilla, Pendleton,  Cottage Grove, Florence, Oregon City, Springfield, Keizer, Grants Pass, McMinnville, Tualatin, West Linn, Forest Grove, Wilsonville, Newberg, Roseburg, Lake Oswego, Klamath Falls, Happy Valley, Tigard, Ashland, Milwakie, Coos Bay, The Dalles,  St. Helens, Sherwood, Central Point, Canby, Troutdale, Hermiston, Silverton, Hood River, Newport, Prineville, Astoria, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Hillsboro, and Vancouver, Washington.

We also have an office in Minneapolis, Minnesota and take medical malpractice cases throughout the Twin Cities, including St. Paul, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County, Anoka County, Scott County, Blaine, Stillwater, and Saint Paul Minnesota.

For a free case evaluation


(541) 385-1999 in Bend, Oregon
(503) 479-3646 in Portland, Oregon
(612) 444-3374 in Minnesota

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