Medical Malpractice and Child Birth Injuries

Serious medical conditions can develop from untreated jaundice in a newborn infant.

child-birth-injuryKernicterus, cerebral palsy, and severe jaundice are severe medical conditions that can develop in a child. These conditions are related and can be a result of medical malpractice.


Jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the eyes, skin, or mucus membrane, develops with the accumulation of bilirubin. Jaundice affects many infants soon after birth, and it normally disappears naturally after a couple of days. Jaundice can also be an indicator of liver disease or complications in the blood. The accumulation of high levels of bilirubin is a condition known as hyperbilirubinemia. If this condition is left untreated, it can damage the brain permanently. This condition is also known as kernicterus. Numerous health problems are associated with this medical condition, including the loss of hearing, cerebral palsy, physiological issues, deafness, vision problems, mental retardation, or in worse cases, death.


Kernicterus is a medical condition affecting the nervous system of newborn babies in which jaundice is left untreated. It results from the accumulation of bilirubin, which is a compound created when old red blood cells are broken down by the liver. After the red blood cells are broken down, the substance accumulates in the brain tissues. The brain of the baby can be damaged permanently by the presence of bilirubin in the brain tissues.

Kernicterus is a preventable medical condition. Phototherapy can be used by doctors in treating severe cases of jaundice. High levels of bilirubin can also be reduced through blood transfusion. When the liver of the baby cannot expel the bilirubin by itself, phototherapy is used by doctors in treating this medical condition. Phototherapy utilizes light in removing bilirubin from the blood. Light waves are absorbed by the skin and blood of the baby. This changes bilirubin into substances that can be easily removed by the body of the baby. Instead of trying to decrease the levels of bilirubin by exposing children to the sun, parents should consult a doctor when the baby experiences an extreme case of jaundice.

Symptoms of Kernicterus

The initial stages of kernicterus may manifest through a severe case of jaundice, extreme exhaustion, or feeding issues. Unlike normal infants, babies with this condition may not startle upon touch. Secondary stages of kernicterus may manifest through spasms or abnormal shrieking sounds. The baby may have an arched back with the neck extending backwards. Later stages of kernicterus may manifest through the loss of hearing, movement issues, spasms, inflexibility in the muscles, psychological problems and issues in verbal communication. Athetoid cerebral palsy may also result from kernicterus.

It is essential for parents and doctors to monitor severe cases of jaundice to forestall the development of kernicterus. However, if brain damage due to kernicterus has started to manifest, it is essential for parents to bring their babies to a doctor to pre-empt additional damage to the brain of the baby. The child may have to go through prolonged medical treatment even after he or she has grown up. These treatments include speech pathology, physical therapy, and special education.

If you think your child’s kernicterus is a result of medical negligence, contact Zevan and Davidson Law Firm at (314) 588-7200 for help to receive compensation.

Photo credit: Bridget Coila via Flickr

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