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Untreated Hyperbilirubinemia in Newborns Rare Error

March 15, 2008
Written by: , Filed in: Practice Management
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Because pediatricians usually identify and treat hyperbilirubinemia
immediately, untreated hyperbilirubinemia in newborns is a rare medical error
in the United States.

A list of 28 ‘never events’ compiled by the National Quality Forum defines
serious but preventable medical errors. This list contains a medical error
that deals with a very specific patient population: the death or serious
disability associated with failure to identify and treat hyperbilirubinemia in
newborns.

This is a very rare event in the United States. Most neonatal intensive care
units or basic nurseries have bili lights (a photo therapy tool used to treat
newborn hyperbilirubinemia) and have access to the technology and the testing
needed to keep the baby safe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, newborns should
be assessed for hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice) every 8 to 12 hours during the
first 48 hours after birth and again before five days of age. High levels of
bilirubin potentially can cause brain damage and kernicterus.

However, hyperbilirubinemia is easily treated with phototherapy. Approximately
60% of babies have jaundice, with risk factors including pre-term birth,
darker skin color (harder to recognize the jaundice), East Asian or
Mediterranean family heritage, and feeding difficulties.

Again, this is a very rare medical error because pediatricians are often
identifying the hyperbilirubinemia and getting the patient back into an acute
care setting so that they can treat it quickly and easily. Although this is a
rare error, it still occurs from time to time in the United States.

Reference:
Kathleen Hale, RN, BSN, MHSA, and Richard P. Kidwell, JD Never Events:
Failure to Identify and Treat Hyperbilirubinemia in Newborns.

Because pediatricians usually identify and treat hyperbilirubinemia immediately, untreated hyperbilirubinemia in newborns is a rare medical error in the United States. A list of 28 'never events' compiled by the National Quality Forum defines serious but preventable medical errors. This list contains a medical error that deals with a very specific patient population: the death or serious disability associated with failure to identify and treat hyperbilirubinemia in newborns. This is a very rare event in the United States. Most neonatal intensive care units or basic nurseries have bili lights (a photo therapy tool used to treat newborn hyperbilirubinemia) and have access to the technology and the testing needed to keep the baby safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, newborns should be assessed for hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice) every 8 to 12 hours during the first 48 hours after birth and again before five days of age. High levels of bilirubin potentially can cause brain damage and kernicterus. However, hyperbilirubinemia is easily treated with phototherapy. Approximately 60% of babies have jaundice, with risk factors including pre-term birth, darker skin color (harder to recognize the jaundice), East Asian or Mediterranean family heritage, and feeding difficulties. Again, this is a very rare medical error because pediatricians are often identifying the hyperbilirubinemia and getting the patient back into an acute care setting so that they can treat it quickly and easily. Although this is a rare error, it still occurs from time to time in the United States. Reference: Kathleen Hale, RN, BSN, MHSA, and Richard P. Kidwell, JD Never Events: Failure to Identify and Treat Hyperbilirubinemia in Newborns. [text_ad]
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