What are hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice of the newborn?

Also known as: jaundice in newborns, physiological jaundice, too much bilirubin in the blood, yellowing of the skin

Bilirubin is a yellow compound that forms when red blood cells are broken down. In older children and adults the liver normally processes this which enables it to be removed in the stool. A newborn/premature baby breaks down their red cells faster and with a liver that's immature, cannot get rid of all the bilirubin produced. When this normally builds up, the baby's eyes and skin become yellow - this is called hyperbilirubinemia or jaundice (or physiological jaundice). About 60% of full- term newborns & 80% of premature infants may develop jaundice in the first few days of life, mostly disappearing by 1 week. This may require regular monitoring (by measuring levels of bilirubin).


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 1/29/2019 3:21:13 PM

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