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Newborn jaundice: New technology aids diagnosis

Apr 8, 2018 | Articles

A new app can help diagnose infant jaundice. This could help reduce the risk of complications that can lead to cerebral palsy and brain damage.

Engineers and physicians with the University of Washington have recently developed a smartphone application that can detect the presence of jaundice in newborns in a matter of minutes. Researchers and developers of the app are careful to note that the tool is not yet an official test, but instead could indicate that a blood test is needed.

To use the app, a photo is taken of the infant with a color calibration card. The photo is then analyzed using a special algorithm and a report is sent to the parent’s phone. Although it is best to rely on the result of a blood test for an official diagnosis, the innovative app does bring renewed attention to a condition that can have tragic complications.


Infant jaundice results from an excess of bilirubin within the newborn’s blood. The disorder is generally due to an immature liver in the infant. The liver is unable to remove the bilirubin at a rapid enough rate, resulting in a yellow tinge to the skin. Experts with Mayo Clinic not that birth before 38 weeks of gestation, bruising during the birthing process and instances when the mother and infant have different blood types can all contribute to jaundice.

Common symptoms of severe jaundice include:

  • Increased yellowing of infant’s skin.
  • Yellowing of the whites of the baby’s eyes.
  • Lethargic baby that does not wake easily.
  • Presence of a distinct, high-pitch cry.
  • Lack of weight gain.

In severe cases, complications can include cerebral palsy, hearing loss and permanent brain damage resulting in a syndrome referred to as kernicterus.


Although jaundice can lead to severe complications, treatments are available that greatly reduce this risk. The United States National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health call for physicians and other medical professionals to watch for signs of jaundice before an infant is discharged. Any infant with yellow coloration should have bilirubin levels measured, which is done with a blood test. Depending on the level of bilirubin, various treatments are available. These treatments can include:

  • FEEDING. Frequent feeding to promote bowl movements can naturally remove bilirubin from the infant’s body.
  • PHOTOTHERAPY. Artificial lights can break down the bilirubin in the infant’s skin.
  • IV. In rare cases, the infant may require an intravenous line to administer fluids.

Medical professionals who do not follow accepted protocol and monitor for this disorder can be held liable if injury results. In these cases, a medical malpractice suit may be recommended.


Victims of medical malpractice, like a failure to diagnose jaundice leading to injuries, are eligible to receive compensation to help cover the cost of medical treatment, rehabilitation and future care. Contact an experienced excessive newborn jaundice medical malpractice attorney with Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP to discuss your options.