? What is kernicterus
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What is kernicterus?

 
  Kernicterus is a preventable brain injury that involves permanent brain damage and other complications that may include cerebral palsy*auditory neuropathy**, gaze abnormalities and dental enamel hypoplasia***. Kernicterus results from elevated levels of a naturally occurring neurotoxin, bilirubin. Early detection and treatment of hyperbilirubinemia is critical for prevention of kernicterus. 
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 two decades, 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
 
  (clumsiness, minor fine-motor deficits and sometimes mild auditory neuropathy) 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 including severe reflux, sleep disturbances, respiratory infections and chronic constipation.
Kernicterus used to be common in the United States. In fact, in the 1950s, it was the second leading cause of cerebral palsy. By the 1970s, the medical community believed kernicterus had been eliminated, although it continued to occur outside the U.S., principally in underdeveloped countries. But times have changed. Babies are being discharged earlier and therefore may not be under the watchful eye of someone who knows what to look for and what to do. And parents, for the most part, aren’t warned about the risks associated with newborn jaundice. As a result, we are seeing a re-emergence of kernicterus.