What is Hyperbilirubinemia?

Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition that affects newborns.  It occurs when there is too much bilirubin in the blood.  For more information on Hyperbilirubinemia, please see the following from the University of Virginia Health System:

"What is hyperbilirubinemia?

Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition in which there is too much bilirubin in the blood. When red blood cells break down, a substance called bilirubin is formed. Babies are not easily able to get rid of the bilirubin and it can build up in the blood and other tissues and fluids of the baby's body. This is called hyperbilirubinemia. Because bilirubin has a pigment or coloring, it causes a yellowing of the baby's skin and tissues. This is called jaundice.

Depending on the cause of the hyperbilirubinemia, jaundice may appear at birth or at any time afterward.

What causes hyperbilirubinemia?

During pregnancy, the placenta excretes bilirubin. When the baby is born, the baby's liver must take over this function. There are several causes of hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice, including the following:

  • physiologic jaundice
    Physiologic jaundice occurs as a "normal" response to the baby's limited ability to excrete bilirubin in the first days of life.

  • breast milk jaundice
    About 2 percent of breastfed babies develop jaundice after the first week. Some develop breast milk jaundice in the first week due to low calorie intake or dehydration.

  • jaundice from hemolysis
    Jaundice may occur with the breakdown of red blood cells due to hemolytic disease of the newborn (Rh disease), having too many red blood cells, or bleeding.

  • jaundice related to inadequate liver function
    Jaundice may be related to inadequate liver function due to infection or other factors.

Who is affected by hyperbilirubinemia?

About 60 percent of term newborns and 80 percent of premature babies develop jaundice. Infants of diabetic mothers and of mothers with Rh disease are more likely to develop hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice.

Why is hyperbilirubinemia a concern?

Although low levels of bilirubin are not usually a concern, large amounts can circulate to tissues in the brain and may cause seizures and brain damage. This is a condition called kernicterus.

What are the symptoms of hyperbilirubinemia?

The following are the most common symptoms of hyperbilirubinemia. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • -yellow coloring of the baby's skin (usually beginning on the face and moving down the body)

  • -poor feeding or lethargy

The symptoms of hyperbilirubinemia may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your baby's physician for a diagnosis."


If your child developed hyperbilirubinemia, this may have been the result of medical malpractice.  The law firm of Gray and White Law repesents victims of medical malpractice, including birth-related injuries.  If your family has been the victim of a birth-related injury, such as Hyperbilirubinemia, please contact, or email, the experienced attorneys of Gray and White Law for your free consultation.


Gray and White Law

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