Kernicterus is a type of brain damage caused by untreated jaundice. Jaundice occurs when too much of the chemical bilirubin builds up in a baby’s blood, leading to yellow- or orange-colored skin. Typically, skin discoloration starts at the head before eventually spreading to the rest of the body. Other symptoms of jaundice include extreme fussiness, sleeping issues, eating/feeding problems, and a noticeable decrease in dirty or wet diapers. While jaundice is relatively common—affecting anywhere from 60 to 80% of infants born in the U.S.—it is extremely important that it is treated quickly and correctly. If jaundice goes on for too long, it can lead to kernicterus, which can have serious, life-altering consequences for both the child and his or her family.
If your child was diagnosed with kernicterus, our firm can help you understand your legal options. Contact our New Hampshire kernicterus attorneys at (603) 323-4622 for a free consultation.
Symptoms of Kernicterus
Although jaundice often goes away on its own, it can sometimes lead to serious complications when left untreated. When excessive bilirubin builds up in the brain, it can cause severe brain damage. If your child exhibited signs of severe jaundice, it’s important to also watch for signs of kernicterus.
Common early signs of kernicterus include:
- Muscle spasms
- Reduced muscle tone
- Limpness or stiffness of the body
- Abnormal eye movements
- Trouble feeding
- Low energy
- High-pitched cries
- Uncontrollable crying
As the child ages, he or she may also exhibit other symptoms of kernicterus, including seizures, poor muscle development, sensory problems, stained tooth enamel, and muscle spasms.
Left untreated, kernicterus can lead to disabilities that can affect your child’s quality of life. Complications can include athetoid cerebral palsy, difficulty or inability to speak, poor muscle tone or spasms, lack of coordination, intellectual disabilities, and other problems.
Treatment for Kernicterus
Treatment for kernicterus focuses on reducing the amount of bilirubin in the body. The most common treatment is light therapy (phototherapy). The child’s body is exposed to a specific type of light that helps the body break down unconjugated bilirubin more quickly.
Unfortunately, kernicterus is irreversible. Once symptoms have begun to appear, treatment can only stop further brain damage; it cannot undo damage that has already occurred. For this reason, it is crucial that mothers who are at a higher risk for delivering babies with jaundice receive the proper medical care. Infants that show signs of jaundice should be closely monitored and receive treatment as needed in order to prevent kernicterus. When medical professionals fail to take the necessary precautions and measures to address jaundice and kernicterus, the consequences can be devastating.
Contact Abramson, Brown & Dugan Today
At our firm, we have helped countless individuals and families throughout the state of New Hampshire with highly complex medical malpractice and birth injury cases. We have achieved more settlements and verdicts in medical malpractice cases than any other firm in the state. Our New Hampshire birth injury attorneys understand the complexities involved in these types of cases and use their extensive legal and medical knowledge to build strong cases for our clients. Our team is here to provide you with the compassionate, personalized legal representation you need.
Request your free initial consultation when you call (603) 323-4622 or fill out an online contact form.