Bilirubin Screening for Jaundice at Sky Ridge

Newborn BabyOn Feb. 1, 2005, HCA became the first healthcare system in the nation, of which Sky Ridge is a member, to voluntarily require all 124 of its hospitals with birthing units to use a simple blood test to screen newborns for elevated levels of bilirubin.

Excessive levels of bilirubin, a chemical found in everyone's blood, trigger a yellowing of skin that signals jaundice. If not treated, jaundice can lead to kernicterus, a serious brain-damaging condition that can cause cerebral palsy, hearing loss, vision impairments and dental enamel loss.

Working Toward Eliminating Kernicterus

In the 1970s, kernicterus was nearly eradicated in the U.S. due to aggressive treatment and management. In recent years, kernicterus has reemerged because of several factors. Shorter hospital stays following births have shifted the responsibility of observing for jaundice from physicians and nurses to families. Also, the increase in diverse populations has made it harder to see the skin yellowing.

Babies with elevated levels are placed under bili lights, special lights to break down the bilirubin in the blood. In more severe cases, an exchange transfusion may be performed. In this case, the baby's blood, which has become toxic from bilirubin, will be exchanged for safe blood.

HCA has joined forces with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Joint Commission, The American Academy of Pediatrics and others to promote bilirubin testing through the Kernicterus Prevention Partnership Campaign (KPPC).