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Pediatr Res. 2013 Jul;74(1):54-60. doi: 10.1038/pr.2013.67. Epub 2013 Apr 19.

The effect of hematocrit on the efficacy of phototherapy for neonatal jaundice.

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Division of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.



The therapeutic phototherapy action spectrum ranges from 420 to 500 nm. However, a recent report of improved efficacy of fluorescent "turquoise" light (~490 nm) as compared with blue light (~450 nm) underscores the need to define an optimal action spectrum for precision-targeted phototherapy using very narrow wavelength ranges.


We used a current semi-empirical model of the optical properties of skin for robust calculations of the fraction of light absorbed by bilirubin at various wavelengths that could be confounded by hemoglobin (Hb), melanin, and skin thickness. Applying assumptions regarding the wavelength dependence of bilirubin photochemistry, "action spectra" were assembled from the calculated values.


All the calculated action spectra displayed a peak between 472 and 480 nm (most at 476 nm), which is a significant shift from the well-reported 460 nm absorption peak of bilirubin. Of note, the relative amplitudes of the action spectra showed an inverse relationship with hematocrit (Hct).


We speculate that a narrow range of light at 476 nm would be 60% more effective than blue (broadband) fluorescent lamps. Because Hb serves as a major competitor of bilirubin for light absorption, the calculations also predict that the efficacy of phototherapy is dependent on the Hct. A high Hct could reduce therapeutic efficiency.

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