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Hyperbilirubinemia & Kernicterus Compensation

What is Kernicterus?

Kernicterus is a condition which arises in new born babies whereby high bilirubin levels in the blood cross the thin layer of tissues that separates the brain and the blood. This is known as hyperbilirubinemia, and can take two forms: unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia, which may be fatal because of the unconjugated bilirubin itself, or conjugated hyperbilirubinemia, which allows for dangerous causative diseases to take effect.

What causes jaundice?

High bilirubin levels are one of the primary causes of jaundice. The substance can cause excessive damage to the brain and the spinal cord, which leads to serious illness and might, at worst, become fatal.

Could my child be at risk of developing Kernicterus?

A baby with jaundice is treated with ultra violet light.

Your child may be at risk of developing kernicterus if they have already high or rapidly rising levels of bilirubin in the blood (hyperbilirubinemia) and fail to receive treatment for it within good time.

Initial symptoms of kernicterus and hyperbilirubinemia in infants are:

  • Lack of awareness of surroundings – for example, failing to respond to loud noises.
  • Symptoms of jaundice (primarily yellowness in the skin).
  • Lethargy and fatigue
  • High-pitched crying
  • Muscular stiffness and unusual limpness – hypotonia
  • Inability to feed properly

As kernicterus progresses, developed symptoms can include:

  • Seizures (fits)
  • Arching of the back and/or neck.

Can Kernicterus be Treated?

Because kernicterus is a complication from an initial lack of treatment and inadequate medical observation, the treatment method is an exchange transfusion. Much like a blood transfusion, a tube will be inserted into a vein and some of your baby’s blood will be removed and replaced with healthy blood from a matching blood donor. If this is done in time, the level of bilirubin will then drop.

What are the Effects of Kernicterus?

A child with learning difficulties during a lesson.

If doctors have failed to spot the jaundice, it can cause a significant amount of brain damage that may affect your child for the remainder of their life. These conditions include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Loss of hearing
  • Learning difficulties
  • Involuntary twitching
  • Problems maintaining normal eye movements, with a tendency to gaze upwards or from side to side rather than straight ahead.
  • Normal growth of teeth impaired, resulting in teeth forming misshapen, discoloured and susceptible to decay.

How can Kernicterus be Prevented?

Kernicterus can easily be prevented by giving the child treatment for jaundice before it can escalate into more serious conditions. If your child is thought to be suffering from jaundice, medical professionals have a responsibility to monitor them and administer treatment to address the surge of bilirubin.

Although babies commonly develop jaundice, the chance of it progressing into kernicterus is extremely low. Midwives have a responsibility to monitor a baby’s condition and must take the appropriate actions to treat jaundice early, when it can be simply treated with a course of phototherapy. If this isn’t administered and further developments are caused as a consequence, they may be liable for the damage.

If you believe your child has developed a condition such as brain damage or cerebral palsy as a result of medical negligence, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.


Our Hyperbilirubinemia and Kernicterus Claims Experience

Errors arising from medical negligence cases may hold dire repercussions for patients. At Asons, we understand what surgical negligence is, and the detrimental effect it has on victims. The consequences may not just be physical – potential financial difficulties where time is taken off work must also be considered, and the ensuing stress may elicit negative psychological consequences.

We know that victims are often hesitant to come forward with their medical claims, particularly those pertaining to birthing and obstetrics. As medical negligence solicitors, it’s our job to do everything within our means to make the process as straightforward as possible.


Coping with the aftermath of birthing injuries such as kernicterus is often extremely traumatic and may cause a number of negative consequences in all aspects of the victim’s life. Our guide to Coping With Infant Birthing Injuries was written to help individuals come to terms with what has happened and to find the support they need.

Be Quick…

As with any claim, you may be worried about the potential costs of pursuing your clinical negligence case. To address this common concern, we have devised a variety of options to help you. We aid you in acquiring all the assistance that you are entitled to, whilst managing resulting compensation in the most beneficial way possible. We must remind you to be quick, however, as there are time limits in place for making claims of this kind.

Next Steps

We deal with medical negligence claims on a regular basis. If you are suffering as a result of substandard treatment, you may be eligible to make a claim. Our Medical Negligence Solicitors will work to gather all appropriate paperwork and documentation, whilst speaking to the parties involved, substantiating your claim.

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