Kernicterus.

Kernicterus Negligence & Misdiagnosis Compensation Claims.

It is quite common for babies to develop jaundice shortly after being born, and in the vast majority of cases it is picked up quickly by the midwives or doctors looking after your baby post-birth and treated accordingly.

However, very occasionally jaundice can go undetected and may then develop into kernicterus – a serious medical condition that can cause long-term complications such as hearing loss or cerebral palsy.

If your baby has developed kernicterus after negligent treatment as a newborn, you may be entitled to claim compensation on their behalf. Here at Lanyon Bowdler we understand how difficult it is to see your baby suffer, especially when their suffering could have been avoided. Our empathetic and understanding team of medical negligence solicitors will handle your child’s case with the utmost care to ensure you and your family are fully compensated for the suffering endured.

What is Kernicterus?

Kernicterus is a rare but severe form of jaundice which can cause brain damage if left untreated. Jaundice is caused by an accumulation of bilirubin in the blood, which is a yellow substance produced when red blood cells are broken down, causing the skin to appear yellow. Newborn babies have a high red blood cell count, and these cells are frequently broken down and replaced, which is why neonatal jaundice is so common.

Bilirubin is removed from the blood by the liver, and a newborn baby’s liver is not fully developed until they are around two weeks old, therefore in most cases jaundice corrects itself after a couple of weeks. Some newborn babies, particularly those born prematurely, have very high levels of bilirubin (hyperbilirubinaemia), and the bilirubin could cross the blood-brain barrier, damaging the brain or the central nervous system and causing potentially life-threatening conditions.

Kernicterus is largely preventable and is very rare in the UK, therefore if your child has developed the condition, it could indicate that they have received negligent care. Our experienced team of medical negligence solicitors can help you to identify whether or not the care your baby received was negligent, and whether you are entitled to make a claim for compensation.

Our Kernicterus Claims Expertise

Our birth injury negligence team at Lanyon Bowdler is here to assist you through the legal process of claiming compensation for a child’s kernicterus. Contact us today.

Why choose Lanyon Bowdler to handle your kernicterus claim?

At Lanyon Bowdler, we understand the impact that a child brain injury like kernicterus can have on the whole family. Families can often struggle financially after an injury to a child, due to one or both parents having to take time off work or give up their jobs altogether, as well as the costs of medical treatment which can soon mount up. We offer our services on a no win no fee basis, which means you can make your claim without the added worry of any up-front costs. In some cases, we may be able to apply for Legal Aid.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you with your kernicterus compensation claim, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can arrange a free consultation to discuss your needs.

Your Kernicterus Negligence questions answered

Who is at risk of developing kernicterus?

Approximately six in 10 babies will develop jaundice, rising to eight in 10 for babies born before 37 weeks gestation. However, only around one in 20 babies will have a bilirubin level high enough to require treatment.

There are a number of factors that may contribute to a baby developing kernicterus, including:

  • Being born prematurely
  • Being exclusively breastfed
  • Having very high blood bilirubin levels
  • Bilirubin levels rising rapidly
  • Treatment is absent or delayed
  • Siblings have previously had hyperbilirubinaemia
  • Jaundice develops within 24 hours of birth

Medical staff are trained to look out for these risk factors and act accordingly. Failure to do so would usually mean that they were negligent in their care. If you feel that your baby’s kernicterus could have been prevented with due care and attention, speak to our team of clinical negligence lawyers today and we’ll be happy to offer advice.

What are the symptoms of kernicterus?

When a baby is born, the medical team caring for them will keep a close eye on them, and one of the things they look for is signs of jaundice. If the baby has developed jaundice, they will then be monitored closely so that a potential case of kernicterus can be prevented, or in the very least detected and treated early.

There are a number of key symptoms which babies with kernicterus may present with, including:

  • Symptoms of jaundice i.e. yellowing of the skin, dark yellow urine, pale poo.
  • Reduction in appetite or not wanting to feed at all.
  • Extreme lethargy and fatigue, spending very little time awake.
  • Little or no response to their surroundings, e.g. not responding to loud noises.
  • Unusual limpness and muscular stiffness.
  • High-pitched crying.
  • As kernicterus progresses, babies may also experience seizures, and arching of the back and neck.

If your newborn baby developed jaundice which was not detected or not treated properly and they then went on to develop kernicterus, it could indicate that the medical team responsible for your baby were negligent in their care. Our knowledgeable and understanding team of clinical malpractice solicitors can help to ensure your child is awarded the compensation they are entitled to, providing the financial support that you and your family need.

Can kernicterus be treated?

Kernicterus is a condition which occurs due to a lack of treatment for jaundice in the first instance. In many cases of jaundice, the levels of bilirubin are low enough that treatment is not necessary and the condition will disappear on its own after around two weeks as the baby’s liver develops properly. In some cases, the levels of bilirubin may be high enough that phototherapy is necessary. Phototherapy is a harmless treatment which involves regularly exposing the baby to a special type of light which helps their liver to process the bilirubin in the blood.

If phototherapy is not offered and the baby’s bilirubin levels are high, kernicterus can develop, and the only treatment option is an exchange transfusion. This is a type of complete blood transfusion, in which the baby’s blood is removed via a thin plastic tube and replaced with suitable blood from a matching donor. The new blood does not contain bilirubin, therefore the level of bilirubin in the baby’s blood will fall rapidly. The transfusion procedure can take several hours, and the baby’s blood will be checked within two hours of the treatment. If the bilirubin levels remain high, it may be necessary to repeat the procedure.

What are the long-term effects of kernicterus?

If the medical team caring for your newborn baby fail to spot jaundice and it develops into kernicterus, brain damage can occur, which can have lifelong implications for your child, including:

  • Cerebral palsy which affects movement and coordination.
  • Learning disabilities which can make it difficult to live independently.
  • Hearing loss ranging from mild to severe.
  • Uncontrollable twitching throughout the body.
  • Dental development issues such as misshapen or discoloured teeth which are prone to decay.
  • Problems with eye movements such as a tendency to gaze upwards or from side to side

Not all children who have suffered brain damage as a result of kernicterus will display the same symptoms, and the severity of the symptoms will vary depending on the extent of the brain damage. Early diagnosis and intervention may significantly reduce any brain damage or prevent it entirely. If your child has developed kernicterus and subsequent brain damage due to the negligent treatment of their newborn jaundice, you may have a case for claiming medical negligence compensation. Our expert team is on hand to discuss your case and answer any questions you may have.

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Am I Eligible to Make a Kernicterus Compensation Claim?

The medical staff responsible for the care of newborn babies are well-trained in spotting the signs of jaundice and treating it promptly, thus preventing kernicterus from happening. Therefore, when a case of kernicterus does occur, it is likely that it happened due to some form of negligence on the part of the medical staff caring for the baby.

The following instances provide reasonable grounds for pursuing a medical negligence compensation claim for kernicterus:

  • When babies who are at higher risk of developing kernicterus, for example those born prematurely, are not monitored appropriately after birth.
  • When insufficient attention is paid to a sudden rise in the bilirubin levels in the baby’s blood.
  • On realising that a baby’s bilirubin levels are very high or rising rapidly, treatment is delayed or not administered at all.

This list is not exhaustive, and if you feel that the care your baby received was substandard and has resulted in the development of kernicterus, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation on their behalf.

In most cases, there are very strict time limits within which to bring a claim, therefore we would strongly recommend that you contact us as soon as possible to discuss your baby’s claim to prevent any issues being caused by time running out.

Contact Lanyon Bowdler’s Medical Negligence Lawyers Today

By choosing Lanyon Bowdler for a Medical Negligence Compensation Claim, you can rest assured that you have the best legal expertise on your team.

Lanyon Bowdler’s medical negligence team is widely acclaimed and recognised as one of the best clinical negligence departments in the country.

If you think your baby has developed kernicterus after negligent treatment as a newborn you may be entitled to make a compensation claim.

Give us a call or complete our online enquiry form, to see how our team can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve.

There is no obligation or any charges for our initial assessment.

We have offices in Shrewsbury, Bromyard, Conwy, Hereford, Ludlow, Oswestry, and Telford, so are able to act for clients all over Shropshire, Herefordshire, Mid and North Wales and across the Midlands (including Wolverhampton & Birmingham). As a leading full-service law firm, we can represent you wherever you live in England or Wales.

We are committed to providing exceptional levels of client care and will work closely and considerately with you to help find the best outcomes and help to get your life back on track.

If you wish to complain or seek compensation for any type of birth injury, our team of medical negligence specialists will be able to deal with it in a sensitive and approachable way.

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