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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2010 May;26(5):343-8. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e3181db2058.

Managing well-appearing neonates with hyperbilirubinemia in the emergency department observation unit.

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  • 1Division of Pediatrics Emergency Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine, 6621 Fannin Street MC1-1481, Houston, TX 77030-2399, USA.



In September 2005, Texas Children's Hospital initiated a protocol for all neonates presenting to the emergency department (ED) with hyperbilirubinemia based on the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines. As part of the protocol, low-risk neonates with hyperbilirubinemia requiring phototherapy are treated in the ED observation unit (EDOU).


The aim of the study was to compare time to phototherapy and duration of hospital stay in low-risk neonates with hyperbilirubinemia presenting to the Texas Children's Hospital ED before and after the initiation of a triage-based protocol.


We performed a retrospective historical control study comparing neonates with hyperbilirubinemia treated in the EDOU between January 1 and December 31, 2006 (EDOU group), with neonates with hyperbilirubinemia admitted to the inpatient unit between January 1 and December 31, 2004 (inpatient group).


There were 167 neonates included in the study: 62 neonates were treated in the EDOU and 105 in the inpatient unit. Median time to phototherapy (inpatient: 6.7 hours, EDOU: 1.6 hours) and duration of hospital stay (inpatient: 41.8 hours, EDOU: 17.8 hours) were shorter for neonates treated in the EDOU compared with neonates treated in the inpatient unit. Of the neonates treated in the EDOU initially, 11 were admitted to the inpatient unit after 24 hours because their bilirubin level did not decline adequately.


Low-risk neonates with hyperbilirubinemia can be managed more efficiently in an EDOU than in an inpatient unit. Phototherapy is initiated more rapidly, and patients are discharged sooner in the EDOU than in the inpatient setting.

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