Kernicterus is a preventable neurologic disorder caused by newborn jaundice that can result in cerebral palsy, auditory processing problems (AN), gaze and vision abnormalities, and dental enamel hypoplasia. Newborn jaundice affects 60% of newborns in the United States each year and is the number one reason for hospital readmission during the first week of life. In the last ten to fifteen years, changes such as relaxed jaundice management guidelines, shortened hospital stays and reduced concern about jaundice in general have led to an increase in cases of excessive jaundice and acute and chronic kernicterus. The long-term effects of excessive jaundice on the newborn brain can range from subtle (clumsiness, minor fine-motor deficits and sometimes slight AN) to severe (quadriplegia, total hearing loss, non-verbal). A few weeks after the severe jaundice incident, parents are typically able to identify abnormal newborn behaviors including poor feeding, irritability, sleep difficulty and muscle tone fluctuations. In addition, several secondary medical conditions are associated with kernicterus: severe reflux, sleep disturbances, respiratory infections and chronic constipation.
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