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Hyperbilirubinemia

Higher-than-normal amount of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is a substance formed when red blood cells break down.

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(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

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Evidence reviews

Metalloporphyrins for treatment of unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia in neonates

Metalloporphyrins may reduce very high levels of jaundice in newborn babies, but more research is required on safety and to compare it with other treatments. Jaundice is very common in newborn babies, and is caused by the liver producing too much bilirubin, a yellow‐coloured bile substance. A very high level of bilirubin can damage the developing brain, and is treated with phototherapy (light therapy) or exchange transfusions. Metalloporphyrins are drugs that can prevent the formation of bilirubin, but they might also cause photosensitivity (sensitivity to light) and anaemia (decreased hemoglobin levels in the blood). The review of trials found some evidence that metalloporphyrins might be able to reduce bilirubin, but more research is needed on short and long‐term effects and to compare it with other treatments.

Oral zinc for the prevention of hyperbilirubinaemia in neonates

Jaundice, or yellowish discolouration of the skin, can occur due to an increased amount of bilirubin pigment in the blood. It is a commonly observed and usually harmless condition in newborn infants during the first week after birth. However, in some babies, the amount of bilirubin pigment can increase to dangerous levels and necessitate treatment. Bilirubin is metabolised in the liver and is excreted via the intestine in faeces. Increased reabsorption of bilirubin from the intestine is one of the major factors inducing hyperbilirubinaemia in newborn infants. Oral zinc salt, a relatively harmless medicine, can reduce the bilirubin level in newborn infants by decreasing its reabsorption from the intestine.

Neonatal Jaundice

Jaundice is one of the most common conditions requiring medical attention in newborn babies. Approximately 60% of term and 80% of preterm babies develop jaundice in the first week of life, and about 10% of breastfed babies are still jaundiced at 1 month of age. In most babies with jaundice thevre is no underlying disease, and this early jaundice (termed ‘physiological jaundice’) is generally harmless. However, there are pathological causes of jaundice in the newborn, which, although rare, need to be detected. Such pathological jaundice may co-exist with physiological jaundice.

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Summaries for consumers

Metalloporphyrins for treatment of unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia in neonates

Metalloporphyrins may reduce very high levels of jaundice in newborn babies, but more research is required on safety and to compare it with other treatments. Jaundice is very common in newborn babies, and is caused by the liver producing too much bilirubin, a yellow‐coloured bile substance. A very high level of bilirubin can damage the developing brain, and is treated with phototherapy (light therapy) or exchange transfusions. Metalloporphyrins are drugs that can prevent the formation of bilirubin, but they might also cause photosensitivity (sensitivity to light) and anaemia (decreased hemoglobin levels in the blood). The review of trials found some evidence that metalloporphyrins might be able to reduce bilirubin, but more research is needed on short and long‐term effects and to compare it with other treatments.

Oral zinc for the prevention of hyperbilirubinaemia in neonates

Jaundice, or yellowish discolouration of the skin, can occur due to an increased amount of bilirubin pigment in the blood. It is a commonly observed and usually harmless condition in newborn infants during the first week after birth. However, in some babies, the amount of bilirubin pigment can increase to dangerous levels and necessitate treatment. Bilirubin is metabolised in the liver and is excreted via the intestine in faeces. Increased reabsorption of bilirubin from the intestine is one of the major factors inducing hyperbilirubinaemia in newborn infants. Oral zinc salt, a relatively harmless medicine, can reduce the bilirubin level in newborn infants by decreasing its reabsorption from the intestine.

Fibreoptic phototherapy for neonatal jaundice

A single fibreoptic phototherapy device is less effective at treating neonatal jaundice than conventional phototherapy, except in preterm infants in whom it is equally effective. Newborn infants often develop jaundice, which is concerning as unconjugated serum bilirubin can damage the developing brain. Since the 1960s, jaundice has been treated with phototherapy, for which the infants have to be naked in a crib with their eyes covered. Fibreoptic phototherapy is a new type of phototherapy in which the light is applied directly to the skin of the infant via optical fibres, enabling the infants to be nursed fully clothed near to their parents. This review has shown that fibreoptic phototherapy is less effective than conventional phototherapy, except in preterm infants in whom it is equally effective.

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More about Hyperbilirubinemia

Photo of a young adult woman

Also called: Hyperbilirubinaemia

See Also: Jaundice

Other terms to know:
Bilirubin, Erythrocytes (Red Blood Cells)

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