- Disorder due to jaundice in a newborn baby with a high blood level of the pigment bilirubin that is deposited in the brain resulting in damage. Some babies are at high risk. A baby who has bruises at birth is more likely to develop jaundice. A baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy is susceptible to jaundice because its immature liver may not be able to get rid of much bilirubin. The level of bilirubin is monitored in newborns to determine whether treatment is needed to prevent kernicterus. Today no baby should develop brain damage from untreated jaundice. If a baby gets too jaundiced, the baby can be treated with phototherapy. The baby can be put under blue lights most of the day. If the baby gets very jaundiced, an exchange transfusion can be done. Kernicterus is also called bilirubin encephalopathy.
* * *Jaundice associated with high levels of unconjugated bilirubin, or in small premature infants with more modest degrees of bilirubinemia; yellow staining and degenerative lesions are found chiefly in basal ganglia including in the lenticular nucleus, subthalamus, Ammon horn, and other areas; may occur with hemolytic disorder such as Rh or ABO erythroblastosis or G6PD deficiency as well as with neonatal sepsis or Crigler-Najjar syndrome; characterized early clinically by opisthotonus, high-pitched cry, lethargy, and poor sucking, as well as abnormal or absent Moro reflex, and loss of upward gaze; later consequences include deafness, cerebral palsy, other sensineural deficits, and mental retardation. SYN: bilirubin encephalopathy, nuclear jaundice. [Ger. Kern, kernel (nucleus), + Ikterus, jaundice]
* * *ker·nic·ter·us kər-'nik-tə-rəs n a condition marked by the deposit of bile pigments in the nuclei of the brain and spinal cord and by degeneration of nerve cells that occurs usu. in infants as a part of the syndrome of erythroblastosis fetalisker·nic·ter·ic -rik adj
* * *n.staining and subsequent damage of the brain by bile pigment (bilirubin), which may occur in severe cases of haemolytic disease of the newborn. Immature brain cells in the basal ganglia are affected, and as brain development proceeds a pattern of cerebral palsy emerges at about six months, with uncoordinated movements, deafness, disturbed vision, and feeding and speech difficulties.
* * *ker·nic·ter·us (kər-nikґtər-əs) [Ger. â€œnuclear jaundiceâ€] a condition associated with high levels of bilirubin in the blood, nearly always with severe neural symptoms, usually seen in infants as a sequela of icterus gravis neonatorum. It is characterized by deep yellow staining of the basal nuclei, globus pallidus, putamen, caudate nucleus, cerebellar nuclei, bulbar nuclei, and gray substance of the cerebrum, accompanied by widespread destructive changes. Called also bilirubin encephalopathy.
Medical dictionary. 2011.