Home Health How Kernicterus Leads to Cerebral Palsy

How Kernicterus Leads to Cerebral Palsy

by William Gist

Kernicterus which is also known as bilirubin encephalopathy in medical circles is a form of brain damage which is preventable and mostly occurs in infants or newly born babies with jaundice. A baby born with bilirubin encephalopathy may have effects that affect them or the rest of their lives ranging from the reduced sight of physical disabilities like paralysis. 

In most cases, families that have been affected by kernicterus have cause to use for medical malpractice because kernicterus occurs in most cases due to negligence during childbirth. The families should seek the advice of a BirthInjuryLawyer before taking any legal step against the medical institution or clinics.

Jaundice and kernicterus


Jaundice is an illness where a newly born baby experiences yellowing on their skin as well as on the outer white parts of the eyeballs. The yellowing occurs as a result of high levels of bilirubin known as hyperbilirubinemia. Bilirubin is a yellowish substance formed when the red blood cells of the body are processed.

This substance is processed by the liver, and when bilirubin appears in high levels, the liver is overloaded. If the liver is overloaded, then a baby has very high chances of getting jaundice. Jaundice is common in newborns and will typically show between one to four days of the baby’s birth with at least half of all newborns portraying signs of jaundice.

Symptoms of kernicterus


Below are some of the symptoms of kernicterus

  • Fever
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Drowsiness
  • Lack of physical energy
  • Stiffness of the body, among others.

Kernicterus and cerebral palsy


Kernicterus is classified into three distinct types namely

  • Acute bilirubin encephalopathy (ABE).
  • Chronic bilirubin encephalopathy (CBE).
  • Subtle bilirubin encephalopathy (SBE)

ABE is a less severe form of kernicterus and CBE is a more dangerous and more permanent form of kernicterus and occurs when ABE is not adequately treated in the newborns. ABE causes brain damage as the high levels of bilirubin to prevent enough blood from reaching the brain.

Cerebral palsy is a congenital illness related to physical movement that causes irregularities in muscle tone and posture. Cerebral palsy’s leading cause is brain damage or malformation, which ours during or after birth. The ailment will only occur when the baby’s brain is still under development.

Kernicterus is, therefore, a significant cause of cerebral palsy in infants because of the high levels of bilirubin which disallows blood from constantly flowing freely to the brain. Insufficient blood and nutrients to the brain consequently lead to brain damage and in severe cases, cerebral palsy.

It is important to note that as long as jaundice is occurring, then your baby’s body is being damaged. Seek medical attention immediately after noticing any sign of jaundice in your child. 

If your baby experiences injury during birth it’s so important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard can give you and your family the support you need and help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.