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Pittsburgh Medical Malpractice Lawyers

Adovocating for Victims and their Families Suffering from Kernicterus

Kernicterus is a rare serious form of brain damage caused by excessive jaundice.  Jaundice is the yellowing of the skin, eyes and other tissues that is created by a buildup of a substance called bilirubin.  This medical condition is known as hyperbilirubinemia.  When levels of bilirubin become so high in the bloodstream, it can travel to the brain causing irreversible damage.

Jaundice is a common occurrence in newborns.  All newborns should be evaluated for jaundice within the first 24 hours of birth.  Any newborn that appears to have jaundice should have a bilirubin blood test done.  If the level is elevated, the baby can be easily treated for this condition while in the hospital with frequent feedings, hydration, phototherapy or a blood exchange transfusion.  In addition, all newborns must have follow-up appointments with a pediatrician 2 to 3 days after being discharged from the hospital to be re-screened for any signs or symptoms of jaundice.  With these screenings, no infant should develop brain damage as kernicterus is a preventable birth injury.

Kernicterus Caused By Medical Malpractice

Some of the more common medical mistakes that doctors or other healthcare providers may make leading to kernicterus include:

  • Failing to identify any potential risk factors
  • Failing to properly monitor or test an infant for jaundice
  • Failing to diagnose hyperbilirubinemia or kernicterus
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Misinterpretation of laboratory tests
  • Inappropriate treatment
  • Failing to provide treatment in a timely manner

Early Detection and Prevention of Kernicterus is Critical

Early recognition of jaundice is critical.  The signs and symptoms of hyperbilirubinemia that healthcare professionals need to be able to recognize and respond to include:

  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Irritable or fussy
  • Lethargy, difficulty waking up
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Poor sucking
  • High-pitched cry
  • Opisthotonus,  arching of the  head and neck into a contorted position
  • Fever
  • Bulging fontanel
  • Seizures

It is important to understand that kernicterus can be prevented.  When hyperbilirubinemia is properly diagnosed and promptly treated, infants can be spared the devastating effects of kernicterus.  Any physician who fails to appropriately monitor or test an infant for jaundice or fails to properly treat a case of hyperbilirubinemia may be held accountable for medical negligence.

Long-Term Health Effects of Kernicterus

Babies with kernicterus typically suffer from long term health problems that can include:

  • Hearing loss or deafness
  • Eye movement abnormalities, particularly looking upwards
  • Movement disorders
  • Staining of teeth
  • Learning disabilities
  • Cerebral Palsy

There is no cure for kernicterus.  The brain damage is permanent.  Treatment is dependent on the specific problems that a child is suffering and the severity of the disease.  Children will typically require a lifetime of ongoing medical care including speech, physical and occupational therapies.  Children may require special educational services.  Medications are utilized to help manage the movement disorders.  Cochlear implants or hearing aids are sometimes necessary to help affected children deal with the hearing issues.

The Law Offices of James R. Moyles:  Compassionate Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg Representing Birth Injury Victims Suffering From Kernicterus

If you suspect that your child is suffering from kernicterus as a result of medical negligence, you may be entitled to file a medical malpractice claim in order to recover compensation for medical expenses, future treatments and your emotional suffering.  Our experienced Pittsburgh medical malpractice lawyers have the skills and resources to perform a thorough evaluation of your labor and delivery process to determine if your baby’s kernicterus could have been prevented.

Contact the birth injury lawyers at The Moyles Law Firm as soon as possible to ensure your child’s rights are fully protected.  Call our Pittsburgh office at 412-281-1055 or our Harrisburg office at 717-233-5400 to schedule a free consultation with our reputable personal injury lawyers in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg or contact us online.

James R. Moyles


The Law Offices of James R. Moyles are located in Pittsburgh, PA and in the Harrisburg area to serve clients in and around Dauphin, Perry, Lancaster, York, Franklin. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Attorney Advertising. This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.