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New York Kernicterus

Kernicterus is an injury to the brain that occurs due to extreme jaundice. Jaundice is caused by an excess of bilirubin in the bloodstream. When the excess bilirubin becomes extremely high, it can move to the brain. Kernicterus is quite dangerous for babies as it can lead to a permanent birth injury. While there is no cure for kernicterus, it is preventable by taking steps to treat the elevated levels of bilirubin. If your baby has been diagnosed with kernicterus and you believe it was due to your doctor’s failure to diagnose or treat jaundice, the New York Kernicterus lawyers at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates can help you get fair compensation to pay for your child’s care and for other related expenses.

Causes of kernicterus

Kernicterus is caused by excessive bilirubin in the baby’s bloodstream. However, it is easily prevented by a diagnosis of jaundice and proper treatment. Jaundice is very common in newborns because many babies are born with slightly underdeveloped livers. Jaundiced babies typically have a yellowish tint to their skin and a yellowish tint to the whites of the eyes. Jaundice can be confirmed by a blood test or by a bilirubinometer which is a skin test. Once a baby has been diagnosed with elevated bilirubin levels, the baby can be treated with phototherapy, intravenous immunoglobulin, or exchange transfusion. With treatment, the elevated bilirubin levels can be reduced, preventing kernicterus.

Symptoms of kernicterus

If the baby’s jaundice is not treated properly, then the bilirubin may pass into the baby’s brain. This is called acute bilirubin encephalopathy. If the acute bilirubin encephalopathy is not promptly treated, it may progress to kernicterus. Kernicterus is permanent brain damage. Signs of kernicterus include:

  • High-pitched crying
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Bulging on the baby’s “soft spot” (fontanel)
  • Poor feeding
  • Hearing loss
  • Decreased urination
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Problems with movement

Babies with kernicterus may suffer permanent, life-changing health problems such as cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and developmental disabilities.

Risk factors for kernicterus

Even though it is common for babies to be born jaundiced, the risk factors for the development of severe jaundice and kernicterus include prematurity, darker skin color, a sibling who had jaundice, and bruising at birth. Doctors should monitor babies with risk factors and promptly respond to elevated bilirubin levels. This is the best way to prevent kernicterus.

Pursuing compensation for kernicterus

While it may not be the doctor’s fault that your baby was jaundiced, it may very well be negligent of your doctor to fail to diagnose and treat the jaundice. Jaundice is a common condition and easily treated. As a New York kernicterus lawyer will explain, if your baby suffers a serious injury such as cerebral palsy that could have been prevented if your doctor diagnosed and treated elevated bilirubin, then your doctor may have committed medical malpractice.

Keep in mind that it is important that you act quickly. Medical malpractice claims must be filed within a certain time period, call the statute of limitations. If you fail to file your claim by the statutory deadline, you may be prevented from ever filing the claim on behalf of your child and you will lose out any compensation owed to you or your child.


Janie was born jaundiced. In fact she had very high bilirubin levels. However, her doctor did not perform blood tests or treat the condition within the first 24 hour after she was born. Instead the doctor discharged Janie. Her bilirubin levels continued to climb, until she suffered extensive brain damage. At the age of three Janie is not able to walk or talk. She requires 24 our care. With the help of a kernicterus attorney in New York, Janie’s parents filed a lawsuit against her doctor.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If your baby suffered brain damage related to kernicterus, you deserve to know what happened. If your baby’s injury was caused by the negligent care by a doctor or hospital, it is important that you have experienced legal representation. The kernicterus attorneys serving New York at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have years of experience representing clients who have suffered serious injuries due to medical negligence. Contact us at 800.696.9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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