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Hyperbilirubinemia & Jaundice In Newborns Claims

If your newborn baby suffered from neonatal jaundice or hyperbilirubinemia, then you may be able to make a claim.

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I am very happy and satisfied with the settlement you achieved for me and the service was excellent and thank you very much

Mrs E.Swaffield
Loughborough

Claiming for hyperbilirubinemia

While hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice is common among newborns, it doesn’t often need treatment or cause any long-term issues. However, when it isn’t monitored properly it can develop and cause potentially life threatening complications, causing both the baby and their family undue suffering. Where medical negligence has occurred, families may be able to make a claim against those responsible.

Hyperbilirubinemia occurs in over half of babies and the vast majority are properly monitored and treated where necessary by the NHS. But for the few that experience medical negligence it can be a traumatic and stressful period, especially if hyperbilirubinemia develops into kernicterus, which can cause permanent brain damage. If you and your baby have been affected by medical negligence, it’s right that you’re able to hold those responsible to account. With the support of the highly efficient and experienced Your Legal Friend team, you’ll have the best possible chance of securing the finance and answers that you deserve.

We understand that any compensation claim can be difficult for those involved, with medical claims being particularly challenging. That’s why we have a dedicated team that supports and works on behalf of those affected. Using our knowledge and skills, we’ll be by your side from when you first start the claims process through to representing you in court where necessary. To find out how you could make a hyperbilirubinemia claim, contact our team today.

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Our medical negligence team has years of experience working on a wide variety of medical malpractice cases so we understand just how difficult a decision it can be to bring a medical negligence case.

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That’s why we are committed to guiding you through every step of the process. We ensure that your claim is handled carefully and professionally by our specialist solicitors, while working alongside medical experts, to guarantee the best results for you.

Our medical negligence team is headed by Laura Morgan who has a wealth of experience in leading complicated, high value medical negligence cases.

Laura is recognised within the legal profession as a leader in the field of medical negligence and serious injury compensation.  Laura has acted in a wide range of cases over her 17 years of practice and has particular expertise in acting for children who have suffered brain injury due to mismanaged birth or surgical errors, and in managing claims that have resulted in the death of a loved one. Laura has achieved a number of large settlements including £5.4 million for a 7 year old and £4 million for an 11 year old child.

Laura’s expertise and dedication to her clients is recognised in the Chambers guide to the Legal Profession in which she was praised for the efficiency of her approach to case handling and described as “tenacious and detail-oriented”.

Laura has been a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel since 2005 and accredited as a Senior Litigator in the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) since 2006.  Laura is also a member of the specialist lawyers panel for Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), the UK’s leading charity committed to patient safety and justice.

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For an informal, confidential chat with one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors, call us now on 0808 115 9269(calls free from landlines and mobiles). Or just complete the 'Start a new claim’ option on the right and we'll call you straight back.

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The effects of medical negligence can be devastating for the individual and their families, so securing appropriate compensation for them as quickly as possible is our top priority.

Laura Morgan

Director of Medical Negligence

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10 simple steps to claim

Step
1
Obtaining your medical records
Step
2
Providing your statement of what happened
Step
3
Minimising your loss
Step
4
Establishing that a breach of duty occurred
Step
5
Estabilishing the effect of the breach of duty
Step
86
Preparing your case for CourtCalculating the value of your claim
Step
7
Proving your loss
Step
68
Calculating the value of your claimPreparing your case for Court
Step
9
Attending the trial in Court
Step
10
Awarding your compensation claim

Your questions... answered

Can I claim for hyperbilirubinemia?

If your baby experienced hyperbilirubinemia that wasn’t properly monitored or treated, leading to complications developing, you may be able to make a compensation claim. In order to be successful, you will need to demonstrate that medical negligence was involved and it caused you and your child undue suffering.

Every hyperbilirubinemia case is unique and there are many ways that medical negligence can occur when your baby has jaundice, for example:

  • Your baby’s newborn examination not being conducted thoroughly.
  • Health professionals failing to conduct the necessary tests when you raised concerns about symptoms of jaundice.
  • Those responsible for the care of your baby failing to start treatment when bilirubin levels indicated it was necessary.
  • Failure to perform underlying tests to identify potential causes of prolonged jaundice.
  • A delay in treatment for jaundice, leading to complications arising.
  • A failure to monitor how treatment is progressing in order to identify if further options may be needed.

Undue suffering that you’ve experienced can also vary between cases. In the most extreme cases, where a baby has developed kernicterus there may be long-term brain damage and you will be able to demonstrate that your child’s quality of life has been affected as a result. Undue suffering could also cover areas, such as psychological stress, financial pressure due to lost earnings, or additional costs.

How much compensation will I get?

Each compensation case considers how the medical negligence has affected you when it comes to the amount that has been awarded. This means that it’s impossible to say how much your hyperbilirubinemia negligence case could be worth without first understanding your experiences and the impact it’s had on your life.

When you work with us, we’ll take the time to listen to you. By fully understanding how you’ve been affected, we can give your personal case a value that accurately reflects what you’ve been through.

Every year the NHS pays out millions to those that have been affected by medical negligence and those that have been severely affected receive significant sums. By getting in touch with the Your Legal Friend team today, we can help you understand just how much your potential case could be worth and start the process of taking your claim forward.

How long do I have to make a claim?

If you would like to make a claim after experiencing medical negligence when your baby had hyperbilirubinemia you have three years to take you claim forward.

The time limit doesn’t start from when your baby first became ill or when a diagnosis was made. Instead it starts from the date that you realised medical negligence had occurred. In some cases that can be a considerable amount of time after it happened, particularly if the process of diagnosis was long or you weren’t fully aware of the steps that should have been taken considering the symptoms.

If you’re not sure when your ‘date of knowledge’ occurred you can seek help from Your Legal Friend. Our expert medical negligence solicitors have the knowledge and skills to help you unravel the timeline of your case and explain when you need to take the next steps by.

Despite having up to three years to act, we advise you do so sooner. We understand that a compensation claim is likely to be the last thing on your mind after your child has been ill but it can help build your case. We’ll take a witness statement from you to highlight how you’ve been affected and the more details you can recall, the better. We’ll also gather other forms of evidence, including medical records, to support your case and these can be easier to obtain the sooner we put in a request.

What is hyperbilirubinemia?

Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition that can affect newborns. Bilirubin is a compound that helps the body clears waste when aged red blood cells are destroyed. Babies are not able to get rid of bilirubin as easily as adults, leading to it building up in the blood and other tissue.

Most babies experience slightly higher levels of bilirubin when they are first born. This is because their liver must take over getting rid of the product rather than the placenta. It’s usually just observed in low levels and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if large amounts of bilirubin are present in the body, it can potentially cause permanent brain damage by developing into a condition called kernicterus.

As a result, it’s important that hyperbilirubinemia is spotted and treated where necessary, stopping it from progressing.

How is hyperbilirubinemia linked to jaundice?

Hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice are linked. In fact, hyperbilirubinemia is commonly referred to as jaundice, although they do mean different things.

Hyperbilirubinemia means that there is too much bilirubin in the blood. This substance has a yellow colouring which can cause a baby’s skin, eyes, and other tissue to yellow, this is jaundice. Like hyperbilirubinemia, jaundice is usually harmless in babies and treatment can be effectively used to reduce the risk of kernicterus.

In newborns it’s most common for jaundice to develop two or three days after the birth and most of those affected won’t need any treatment. Typically, babies are fully recovered by the time they are two weeks old.

What causes hyperbilirubinemia?

When the baby is in the womb, the placenta removes any waste from the baby. However, after birth the baby’s liver must take over this function. Initially, it can mean that when red bloods cells are broken down the waste left, known as bilirubin, remains in the blood. Too much bilirubin in the blood doesn’t usually cause any problems or long lasting effects but it may need to be monitored and treated to prevent the issue from worsening.

While hyperbilirubinemia isn’t avoidable, there are factors that can increase the risk, including:

  • Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding can increase the chances of jaundice developing. However, there isn’t a need to stop breastfeeding as the symptoms of jaundice will usually last just a few weeks and the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks, according to the NHS.
  • Health conditions – Underlying health conditions may also cause jaundice. These can include an underactive thyroid gland, a urinary tract infection, or rhesus factor disease.

Can hyperbilirubinemia be prevented?

Hyperbilirubinemia can’t be prevented. However, effective treatment can ensure that it doesn’t develop any further and limits the potential risks and complications that can occur.

What are the symptoms of hyperbilirubinemia?

Symptoms of jaundice and hyperbilirubinemia can vary from baby to baby. In most cases, symptoms become noticeable when the baby is around three days old and disappear within a couple of weeks. In premature babies, who are more likely to develop jaundice, it can take longer to develop and lasts for around three weeks.

The most common sign of jaundice in babies is their skin looking slightly yellow, usually starting on their head and face and spreading. Yellowing can be more obvious on the whites of their eyes, inside the mouth, soles of their feet, and the palms of their hands.

Other symptoms of jaundice include:

  • Poor feeding
  • Being sleepy
  • A high-pitched cry
  • Being limp or floppy
  • Dark, yellow urine
  • Pale poo

How is hyperbilirubinemia diagnosed?

In most cases hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice are diagnosed very early. As part of the newborn physical examination, which should be conducted within 72 hours of birth, your baby will be checked for signs of jaundice. However, as jaundice can develop several days after birth, it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of the condition.

If your suspect jaundice after noticing the symptoms, you should contact your GP or health visitor, who will carry out tests. Tests to detect jaundice include:

  • Visual examination – A visual examination will include looking at your baby’s skin, as well as other areas, such as the whites of their eyes and their gums.
  • Bilirubin test – A device called a bilirubinometer, which shines light onto your baby’s skin, or a blood test can be used to measure the levels of bilirubin in your baby’s blood.

Typically, these are the only tests that are needed to diagnosis jaundice and decide whether treatment is necessary. However, if the condition persists for more than two weeks or it is determined that treatment is needed, blood will be taken and analysed to identify a number of areas, including:

  • The baby’s blood group, in order to see if it’s incompatible with the mother’s
  • Whether any antibodies, which fight infections, are present within the red blood cells
  • The number of cells in the baby’s blood
  • Signs of an infections
  • Whether there’s an enzyme deficiency

These tests will help medical professionals to determine if there’s another reason behind the increased levels of bilirubin in your baby’s blood, allowing them to create a tailored treatment plan if necessary.

How is hyperbilirubinemia treated?

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:

Phototherapy

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.

Exchange transfusion

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.

What are the complications of hyperbilirubinemia?

The main concern with hyperbilirubinemia is that it will develop into kernicterus. While very rare in the UK – affecting less than one in every 100,000 babies born – it’s a serious complication.

Kernicterus occurs when jaundice is left unmonitored and untreated in babies. It happens when very high levels of bilirubin are in the blood that then cross into the brain. It can cause extensive and permanent brain damage and affect the central nervous system. In some cases, kernicterus can even be life threatening.

If your baby has jaundice, whether they are in hospital or at home, the condition should be monitored to ensure that it doesn’t develop. Symptoms of kernicterus include:

  • Decreased awareness of the world around them
  • Muscles becoming unusually floppy
  • Poor feeding
  • Seizures
  • Arching of the neck and spine

If treatment isn’t delivered for kernicterus, risks include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hearing loss
  • Learning difficulties
  • Involuntary twitching in body parts
  • Problems maintaining normal eye movement
  • Poor development of teeth

For this reason, it’s important that hyperbilirubinemia is diagnosed and treated where necessary, even though it commonly doesn’t cause any problems or develop.

What are the statistics on hyperbilirubinemia?

Most babies are actually affected by hyperbilirubinemia. It’s thought that around 60% of newborns have increased levels of bilirubin during their first few days following birth. Jaundice is also common, especially in premature babies, with around 80% of them experiencing this condition.

If your baby experienced hyperbilirubinemia that wasn’t properly monitored or treated, leading to complications developing, you may be able to make a compensation claim. In order to be successful, you will need to demonstrate that medical negligence was involved and it caused you and your child undue suffering.

Every hyperbilirubinemia case is unique and there are many ways that medical negligence can occur when your baby has jaundice, for example:

  • Your baby’s newborn examination not being conducted thoroughly.
  • Health professionals failing to conduct the necessary tests when you raised concerns about symptoms of jaundice.
  • Those responsible for the care of your baby failing to start treatment when bilirubin levels indicated it was necessary.
  • Failure to perform underlying tests to identify potential causes of prolonged jaundice.
  • A delay in treatment for jaundice, leading to complications arising.
  • A failure to monitor how treatment is progressing in order to identify if further options may be needed.

Undue suffering that you’ve experienced can also vary between cases. In the most extreme cases, where a baby has developed kernicterus there may be long-term brain damage and you will be able to demonstrate that your child’s quality of life has been affected as a result. Undue suffering could also cover areas, such as psychological stress, financial pressure due to lost earnings, or additional costs.

Each compensation case considers how the medical negligence has affected you when it comes to the amount that has been awarded. This means that it’s impossible to say how much your hyperbilirubinemia negligence case could be worth without first understanding your experiences and the impact it’s had on your life.

When you work with us, we’ll take the time to listen to you. By fully understanding how you’ve been affected, we can give your personal case a value that accurately reflects what you’ve been through.

Every year the NHS pays out millions to those that have been affected by medical negligence and those that have been severely affected receive significant sums. By getting in touch with the Your Legal Friend team today, we can help you understand just how much your potential case could be worth and start the process of taking your claim forward.

If you would like to make a claim after experiencing medical negligence when your baby had hyperbilirubinemia you have three years to take you claim forward.

The time limit doesn’t start from when your baby first became ill or when a diagnosis was made. Instead it starts from the date that you realised medical negligence had occurred. In some cases that can be a considerable amount of time after it happened, particularly if the process of diagnosis was long or you weren’t fully aware of the steps that should have been taken considering the symptoms.

If you’re not sure when your ‘date of knowledge’ occurred you can seek help from Your Legal Friend. Our expert medical negligence solicitors have the knowledge and skills to help you unravel the timeline of your case and explain when you need to take the next steps by.

Despite having up to three years to act, we advise you do so sooner. We understand that a compensation claim is likely to be the last thing on your mind after your child has been ill but it can help build your case. We’ll take a witness statement from you to highlight how you’ve been affected and the more details you can recall, the better. We’ll also gather other forms of evidence, including medical records, to support your case and these can be easier to obtain the sooner we put in a request.

Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition that can affect newborns. Bilirubin is a compound that helps the body clears waste when aged red blood cells are destroyed. Babies are not able to get rid of bilirubin as easily as adults, leading to it building up in the blood and other tissue.

Most babies experience slightly higher levels of bilirubin when they are first born. This is because their liver must take over getting rid of the product rather than the placenta. It’s usually just observed in low levels and shouldn’t be a cause for concern. However, if large amounts of bilirubin are present in the body, it can potentially cause permanent brain damage by developing into a condition called kernicterus.

As a result, it’s important that hyperbilirubinemia is spotted and treated where necessary, stopping it from progressing.

Hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice are linked. In fact, hyperbilirubinemia is commonly referred to as jaundice, although they do mean different things.

Hyperbilirubinemia means that there is too much bilirubin in the blood. This substance has a yellow colouring which can cause a baby’s skin, eyes, and other tissue to yellow, this is jaundice. Like hyperbilirubinemia, jaundice is usually harmless in babies and treatment can be effectively used to reduce the risk of kernicterus.

In newborns it’s most common for jaundice to develop two or three days after the birth and most of those affected won’t need any treatment. Typically, babies are fully recovered by the time they are two weeks old.

When the baby is in the womb, the placenta removes any waste from the baby. However, after birth the baby’s liver must take over this function. Initially, it can mean that when red bloods cells are broken down the waste left, known as bilirubin, remains in the blood. Too much bilirubin in the blood doesn’t usually cause any problems or long lasting effects but it may need to be monitored and treated to prevent the issue from worsening.

While hyperbilirubinemia isn’t avoidable, there are factors that can increase the risk, including:

  • Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding can increase the chances of jaundice developing. However, there isn’t a need to stop breastfeeding as the symptoms of jaundice will usually last just a few weeks and the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks, according to the NHS.
  • Health conditions – Underlying health conditions may also cause jaundice. These can include an underactive thyroid gland, a urinary tract infection, or rhesus factor disease.

Hyperbilirubinemia can’t be prevented. However, effective treatment can ensure that it doesn’t develop any further and limits the potential risks and complications that can occur.

Symptoms of jaundice and hyperbilirubinemia can vary from baby to baby. In most cases, symptoms become noticeable when the baby is around three days old and disappear within a couple of weeks. In premature babies, who are more likely to develop jaundice, it can take longer to develop and lasts for around three weeks.

The most common sign of jaundice in babies is their skin looking slightly yellow, usually starting on their head and face and spreading. Yellowing can be more obvious on the whites of their eyes, inside the mouth, soles of their feet, and the palms of their hands.

Other symptoms of jaundice include:

  • Poor feeding
  • Being sleepy
  • A high-pitched cry
  • Being limp or floppy
  • Dark, yellow urine
  • Pale poo

In most cases hyperbilirubinemia and jaundice are diagnosed very early. As part of the newborn physical examination, which should be conducted within 72 hours of birth, your baby will be checked for signs of jaundice. However, as jaundice can develop several days after birth, it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of the condition.

If your suspect jaundice after noticing the symptoms, you should contact your GP or health visitor, who will carry out tests. Tests to detect jaundice include:

  • Visual examination – A visual examination will include looking at your baby’s skin, as well as other areas, such as the whites of their eyes and their gums.
  • Bilirubin test – A device called a bilirubinometer, which shines light onto your baby’s skin, or a blood test can be used to measure the levels of bilirubin in your baby’s blood.

Typically, these are the only tests that are needed to diagnosis jaundice and decide whether treatment is necessary. However, if the condition persists for more than two weeks or it is determined that treatment is needed, blood will be taken and analysed to identify a number of areas, including:

  • The baby’s blood group, in order to see if it’s incompatible with the mother’s
  • Whether any antibodies, which fight infections, are present within the red blood cells
  • The number of cells in the baby’s blood
  • Signs of an infections
  • Whether there’s an enzyme deficiency

These tests will help medical professionals to determine if there’s another reason behind the increased levels of bilirubin in your baby’s blood, allowing them to create a tailored treatment plan if necessary.

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:

Phototherapy

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.

Exchange transfusion

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.

The main concern with hyperbilirubinemia is that it will develop into kernicterus. While very rare in the UK – affecting less than one in every 100,000 babies born – it’s a serious complication.

Kernicterus occurs when jaundice is left unmonitored and untreated in babies. It happens when very high levels of bilirubin are in the blood that then cross into the brain. It can cause extensive and permanent brain damage and affect the central nervous system. In some cases, kernicterus can even be life threatening.

If your baby has jaundice, whether they are in hospital or at home, the condition should be monitored to ensure that it doesn’t develop. Symptoms of kernicterus include:

  • Decreased awareness of the world around them
  • Muscles becoming unusually floppy
  • Poor feeding
  • Seizures
  • Arching of the neck and spine

If treatment isn’t delivered for kernicterus, risks include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hearing loss
  • Learning difficulties
  • Involuntary twitching in body parts
  • Problems maintaining normal eye movement
  • Poor development of teeth

For this reason, it’s important that hyperbilirubinemia is diagnosed and treated where necessary, even though it commonly doesn’t cause any problems or develop.

Most babies are actually affected by hyperbilirubinemia. It’s thought that around 60% of newborns have increased levels of bilirubin during their first few days following birth. Jaundice is also common, especially in premature babies, with around 80% of them experiencing this condition.