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Jaundice and Billirubin Screenings at UPMC in South Central Pa.

At 24 hours of age, your baby will have a bilirubin screening. Bilirubin is the result of a normal physiological process of destroying red blood cells when they become too old. Elevated levels of bilirubin can cause jaundice, or a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

Neonatal jaundice usually begins within a few days after birth and occurs in more than half of all newborns. Most cases of jaundice are mild and resolve on their own, but some cases require treatment.

Testing and Treatment

Your physician may test for bilirubin by pricking your baby's heel to obtain a small amount of blood or by using a light test on your baby's forehead. If your baby's bilirubin level is high, he or she will likely be treated with phototherapy.

During traditional phototherapy, your baby will be placed in an enclosed plastic crib and exposed to a type of fluorescent light that is absorbed by his skin. This procedure changes the bilirubin into another form that is more easily excreted in your baby's stool or urine.

Another type of phototherapy uses a fiber-optic blanket or band, which wraps around your baby and can be used at home. Although effective, this method takes longer than traditional phototherapy performed in a hospital setting and can be a good option if your baby has mild jaundice.

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Talk to you doctor if you have questions about newborn screenings and tests.

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