Jaundice at Birth

Is Jaundice a Sign of a Birth Injury or Medical Malpractice?

Approximately 60% of all infants are born with jaundice.[1]  When severe jaundice goes untreated for long periods, it can cause kernicterus, a type of brain damage resulting from excessive bilirubin levels in a baby’s blood.  This condition often causes brain injury, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, vision impairments, teeth development issues, and intellectual disabilities.

Jaundice is extremely easy to diagnose and treat before it escalates.  Physicians can conduct diagnostic testing to determine an infant’s bilirubin levels and take appropriate action, if necessary, to control these levels to avoid adverse consequences.  However, when doctors, nurses, or other medical personnel fail to administer adequate and timely treatment, their negligent failure to take proper action can result in permanent injuries.  In these cases, parents or guardians can seek compensation for their child’s injuries and impairment through a medical malpractice lawsuit.

If your child has been diagnosed with kernicterus or associated conditions such as cerebral palsy or epilepsy, such condition may very likely be the result of medical malpractice.  As Michigan birth injury lawyers, we can help you determine the facts leading to your child’s injuries.

We invite you to call us to schedule a free consultation to learn about your options for recovery if negligence and medical malpractice occurred, and the compensation that may be necessary to secure your child’s future.  We work with physicians and nurses to meticulously review the facts of the cases of our clients to determine if medical malpractice likely occurred.  We have decades of experience in holding negligent medical personnel and hospitals fully accountable for the damages and injuries that result.

How Much Does a Jaundice Birth Injury Lawyer Cost? 

At Olsman MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace, we accept birth injury cases on a contingency fee basis.  This means that you will not owe us any fee for our services unless we are successful in securing compensation in your case.  If compensation is secured, our fee is based upon a percentage of the amount collected.

We additionally advance all litigation expenses while a case is proceeding, including costs and expenses for legal expert fees, deposition expenses, and court costs.  These expenses can be fairly substantial; however, you will not need to pay these costs during the pendency of your case (these costs are typically repaid to our firm from the proceeds of a settlement or jury award).

What is Jaundice?

Jaundice is the yellow color seen in the skin of many babies.  This condition occurs when a chemical called bilirubin builds up in a baby’s blood.  During pregnancy, a mother filters the bilirubin for a baby, but after birth, an infant’s liver must remove it.  If a child’s liver is not developed enough to rid the blood of bilirubin efficiently, the whites of the eyes and skin can appear yellow.  If left untreated, a child can suffer permanent injuries.[2]

Is Jaundice Dangerous?

While mild jaundice levels are typically not dangerous and often self-resolve, more intense cases can be a cause for concern.  Whether treatment is needed depends on several factors, including:

  • The level of bilirubin
  • How quickly bilirubin levels rise
  • Whether a baby is premature
  • Age of a baby

It is imperative that medical professionals closely monitor infants with jaundice to determine whether intervention is needed.  If proper intervention is not provided when necessary, the consequences can be significant or even deadly.

What Are the Warning Signs of Jaundice?

Every child is different; therefore, each child may experience jaundice symptoms at different times.  However, certain warning signs should be closely monitored, including:

  • Yellowing in the whites of the eyes, inside the mouth, of the skin, or on the palms and soles of the feet
  • Poor feeding
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Light stools
  • Irritability
  • Stiff, limp, or floppy body
  • Crying inconsolably or with a high pitch
  • Bruising

How Can Jaundice be Treated?

Infants with jaundice should be put on an increased feeding schedule to accelerate bowel movements, which can help remove bilirubin from the blood.  Additionally, the following can be utilized to treat the condition:

  • Extra IV Fluids
  • Blue-Spectrum Phototherapy
  • Fiber Optic Blanket
  • Blood Exchange Treatment
  • Treatment of Underlying Infections

What Kinds of Injuries Can Jaundice Cause?

If jaundice is severe and left untreated, it can lead to acute bilirubin encephalopathy (ABE), a form of brain damage, and can progress to a more critical, permanent injury called kernicterus (also known as chronic bilirubin encephalopathy).

ABE is categorized into three phases:

  • Stage 1. This phase typically begins around 3-5 days of life and may involve:
    • Diminished Moro Reflex
    • Diminished Tone
    • Lethargy
    • Poor Feeding
    • Vomiting
    • High-Pitched Cry
  • Stage 2. This phase begins toward the end of the first week and may involve:
    • Opisthotonos
    • Irritability
    • Seizures
    • Fever
    • Rigidity
    • Oculogyric Crisis
    • Gaze Paralysis
  • Stage 3. This phase begins after the first week and often results in:
    • Apnea
    • Spasticity Decrease
    • Coma
    • Spasms[3]

Kernicterus is a more permanent form of bilirubin encephalopathy that can develop in infants who survive ABE.  During the first year of a child’s life, it typically manifests with muscle tone abnormalities, neck reflex issues, and delayed developmental milestones.

Typical effects include:

  • Spasticity
  • Severe Athetoid Cerebral Palsy
  • High-frequency Hearing Loss
  • Cognitive Impairment
  • Developmental Delay
  • Upward Gaze Paralysis
  • Dental Dysplasia[4]

What Kinds of Damages Can I Collect for a Jaundice Birth Injury?

If a medical provider failed to diagnose or treat jaundice and your child suffered an injury, you (on behalf of your child) may be entitled to collect compensation for any and all past and injuries and damages suffered from the birth injury, as well as those likely to be suffered in the future, which often include those resulting from:

  • Medical Bills
  • Hospital Expenses
  • Emergency Room Visits
  • Surgery
  • Physical Therapy
  • Speech Therapy
  • In-Home Care
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life
  • The Consequences of Future Disability, including care expenses, medical costs, pain and suffering, and economic loss from reduced job earnings.

As birth defect attorneys, we understand the harsh realities and circumstances faced by children who are victims of a birth injury.  We have the resources, experience, and tenacity needed to protect the legal rights of those harmed, and to help recover the compensation to which an injured child and their family are legally entitled.  We provide compassionate care and dedicated representation throughout the entire process.

We Invite You to Call Us to Speak with an Experienced Berkley Birth Injury Lawyer Today to Review Your Options

If you believe your child suffered an injury during birth because of a medical care provider’s negligent actions, contact our birth injury attorneys immediately.  We can evaluate your case free of charge, explain your options for pursuing compensation if it appeared that your child’s injuries were due to medical malpractice, and answer any questions that you may have about the process for seeking compensation.  We look forward to helping you!

[1] What are Jaundice and Kernicterus?, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/jaundice/facts.html.

[2] What are Jaundice and Kernicterus?, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/jaundice/facts.html.

[3] Kernicterus, Family Practice Notebook, https://fpnotebook.com/nicu/gi/Krnctrs.htm.

[4] Kernicterus, Family Practice Notebook, https://fpnotebook.com/nicu/gi/Krnctrs.htm.

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