In most cases hyperbilirubinemia won’t require any treatment and the condition will improve on it’s on over a period of two weeks. However, if there are very high levels of bilirubin in your baby’s blood or jaundice doesn’t improve on its own, treatment may be necessary.
If there’s a risk that kernicterus, a rare but potentially life threatening complication of hyperbilirubinemia, could develop, treatment should also be delivered.
Treatment for hyperbilirubinemia will depend on the extent of jaundice, your baby’s overall health, and medical history, but may include:
Bilirubin absorbs lights and blue spectrum lights can be used to help decrease levels – a process known as phototherapy. By breaking down the bilirubin this treatment makes it easier for the baby’s liver to remove the excess bilirubin from their blood. The treatment is usually given throughout the day and night, with regular intervals so they can be fed, changed, and held. The levels of bilirubin should also be regularly monitored to see how the treatment is progressing.
There are two types of phototherapy. The most common used is conventional phototherapy, where the baby is laid under a halogen or fluorescent lamp. Fibreoptic phototherapy may be used if the conventional method hasn’t worked. It involves your baby lying on a blanket that incorporates fibreoptic cables. If neither of these methods work, continuous multiple phototherapy may be offered, where more than one light is used and treatment won’t be stopped, instead food and fluids will be delivered through a tube and intravenously.
If phototherapy hasn’t been effective or there are very high levels of bilirubin present, a blood transfusion may be necessary. It involves removing small amounts of blood and replacing it with donor blood that doesn’t contain bilirubin, allowing overall levels to fall quickly.
If hyperbilirubinemia is being caused by other underlying conditions, such as an infection or rhesus disease, this will also need to be treated alongside the jaundice in order to be effective.