Bilirubin is a reddish-yellow pigment that occurs especially in bile and blood and causes jaundice, if accumulated in excess. Newborns, particularly those born premature, are often susceptible to jaundice because their livers are immature and slow to process bilirubin. Jaundice is also fairly common among breastfed babies who aren't getting enough milk, or those whose mothers naturally produce substances that raise bilirubin levels.
The Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis’ Bilirubin Clinic provides expertise and quality care for infants and children affected with elevated levels of bilirubin. Most mild cases of elevated bilirubin levels resolve on their own. Yet, since high bilirubin levels can cause hearing loss and brain damage in babies, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all infants be examined for jaundice soon after birth. If the pediatrician feels the baby is more jaundiced than would be expected, a blood test is done to determine the exact level of bilirubin in the blood.
Treatment options provided by specialists at the Bilirubin Clinic include phototherapy (exposure to special lights) or blood transfusions (for more severe cases).