Bilirubin Level in Newborns

When the baby is growing in the mother's womb, the placenta removes bilirubin from the baby's body. The placenta is the organ that grows during pregnancy to feed the baby. After birth, the baby's liver starts doing this job. It may take some time for the baby's liver to be able to do this efficiently.

When the baby is growing in the mother's womb, the placenta removes bilirubin from the baby's body. The placenta is the organ that grows during pregnancy to feed the baby. After birth, the baby's liver starts doing this job. It may take some time for the baby's liver to be able to do this efficiently.

Bilirubin is a yellow pigment that’s in everybody’s blood and stool. Often the liver can’t process the bilirubin in the body. This can be due to an excess of bilirubin, an obstruction, or inflammation of the liver. When your body has too much bilirubin, your skin and the whites of your eyes will start to yellow. This condition is called jaundice. A bilirubin test will help determine if you have any of these conditions.

Bilirubin is made in the body when the hemoglobin protein in old red cell is broken down. The breakdown of old cells is a normal, healthy procedure. After circulating in your blood, bilirubin then takes a trip to your liver. In the liver, bilirubin is conjugated, blended into bile, and after that excreted into the bile ducts and kept in your gallbladder. Eventually, the bile is released into the little intestinal tract to help absorb fats. It’s eventually excreted within your stool.

Bilirubin attached by the liver to the glucose-derived acid, glucuronic acid, is called direct, or conjugated, bilirubin. Bilirubin not attached to glucuronic acid is called indirect, or unconjugated, bilirubin. All the bilirubin in your blood together is called total bilirubin.

A thorough bilirubin blood test will get an accurate count of all 3 bilirubin levels in your blood: direct, indirect, and overall.

In both grownups and kids, symptoms associated with high bilirubin can include jaundice, a yellowing of the skin or eyes, tiredness, scratchy skin, dark urine, and low cravings.

Table description: Consensus‑based bilirubin thresholds for management of babies 38 weeks or more gestational age with hyperbilirubinaemia

Age (hours) Bilirubin measurement (micromol/litre)
0 > 100 > 100
6 > 125 > 150
12 > 150 > 200
18 > 175 > 250
24 > 200 > 300
30 > 212 > 350
36 > 225 > 400
42 > 237 > 450
48 > 250 > 450
54 > 262 > 450
60 > 275 > 450
66 > 287 > 450
72 > 300 > 450
78 > 312 > 450
84 > 325 > 450
90 > 337 > 450
96+ > 350 > 450
Action Start phototherapy Perform an exchange transfusion unless the bilirubin level falls below threshold while the treatment is being prepared

Main Reasons to Test for Bilirubin in Newborns

If bilirubin is not being connected to the glucose-derived acid (conjugated) in the liver or is not being effectively eliminated from the blood, it can suggest that there is damage to your liver. Checking for bilirubin in the blood is for that reason a great way of testing for liver damage.

Moderate jaundice in newborns can either be because of normal modifications in the metabolism of bilirubin, or it can be the first indication of a medical issue. If the level at birth is too high, an infant’s blood may be tested a number of times in the first couple of days of their life to keep an eye on liver function. Jaundice in a newborn can be extremely serious and dangerous if left untreated.

Another factor for high bilirubin levels might be that more red cell are being ruined than normal. This is called hemolysis.

In some cases bilirubin is determined as part of a “panel” of tests. Often, the liver is evaluated with a group of tests that also consist of:

  • alanine transaminase
  • aspartate aminotransferase
  • alkaline phosphatase
  • albumin
  • overall protein

How Is the Bilirubin Blood Test Performed?

A small amount of newborn’s blood is needed to perform this test. The blood sample is acquired through venipuncture, where a needle is placed into a vein through the skin in your arm or hand, and a small amount of blood is gathered in a test tube.

How Do I Prepare My Baby for the Bilirubin Blood Test?

For this test, you will have to not eat or consume anything besides water for four hours prior to you have actually the test performed. You can drink your normal quantity of water before going to the lab or collection site.

You might need to stop giving your newborn certain medications prior to the test is performed, however only if your medical professional informs you to do so. Examples of drugs that can impact bilirubin levels include antibiotics like penicillin G, sedatives like phenobarbital, diuretics like furosemide, and asthma medications like theophylline. Nevertheless, this is not a total list. There are many drugs that can affect bilirubin levels. Speak to your medical professional before your test to see if you need to stop or continue taking medication.

What Are the Risks of the Bilirubin Blood Test?

When the blood is gathered, baby might briefly feel moderate pain or a mild pinching experience. After the needle is gotten, newborn might feel a throbbing feeling. You will be instructed to apply pressure to the site where the needle entered your baby’s skin. A bandage will be applied that needs to remain in location usually for 10-20 minutes, and you need to avoid using that arm for heavy lifting for the remainder of the day.

There are some really unusual risks to taking a blood sample:

  • lightheadedness or fainting
  • hematoma, a swelling where blood accumulates under the skin
  • infection, usually avoided by the skin being cleaned up prior to the needle is inserted
  • extreme bleeding, or feeling sorry for an extended period later, which might suggest a more major bleeding
  • condition and ought to be reported to your doctor

What Is a Normal Result for the Bilirubin Blood Test in Newborns?

In a newborn, higher bilirubin is normal due to the stress of birth. Normal indirect bilirubin in a newborn would be under 5.2 mg/dL within the very first 24 hours of birth, but numerous babies have some kind of jaundice and bilirubin levels that rise above 5 mg/dL within the first few days after birth.

Causes of Abnormal Bilirubin Level in Newborn

Your doctor might wish to carry out further blood tests or an ultrasound if high levels of bilirubin are identified in your baby’s blood. In an adult, high bilirubin may be because of problems with the liver, bile ducts, or gallbladder. Examples consist of:

  • liver illness, like hepatitis
  • Gilbert’s syndrome, a genetic disease
  • cirrhosis, scarring of the liver
  • biliary stricture, where part of the bile duct is too narrow to allow fluid to pass
  • cancer of the gallbladder or pancreas
  • gallstones
  • drug toxicity

High bilirubin may likewise be because of issues in the blood instead of problems in the liver. Blood cells breaking down too fast can be triggered by:

Hemolytic anemia: This happens when too many blood cells are being ruined from an autoimmune disease, hereditary flaw, drug toxicity, or infection, and the liver is not able to metabolize the amount of indirect bilirubin in the body.
Transfusion response: This takes place when your body immune system attacks blood that was provided to you through a transfusion.

Baby Jaundice

In an infant, high (usually indirect) bilirubin and jaundice can be extremely dangerous and might be brought on by numerous aspects. There are three typical types:

  • physiological jaundice: at 2-4 days after birth, brought on by a short hold-up in the performance of the liver, generally not serious
  • breast feeding jaundice: throughout first week of life, triggered by a baby not nursing well or low milk supply in the mother
  • breast milk jaundice: after 2-3 weeks of life, caused by the processing of some substances in breast milk

All of these can be easily treated and are usually harmless if treated. Some more severe conditions that trigger high bilirubin and jaundice in an infant include:

  • abnormal blood cell shapes, such as sickle cell anemia
  • blood type mismatch between infant and mother, causing severe breakdown of the child’s red cell, called
  • erythroblastosis fetalis
  • absence of specific important proteins due to hereditary problems
  • bruising due to a hard shipment
  • high levels of red blood cells due to small size, prematurity
  • infections

What Happens After a Bilirubin Blood Test

If your blood tests show abnormally high levels of bilirubin, your doctor might get more tests to figure out the underlying cause. As soon as your medical professional has actually figured out a cause of high bilirubin levels, you might take more bilirubin blood tests to keep an eye on the efficiency of your treatment. If your doctor believes your liver or gallbladder might be working inappropriately, they might order imaging tests to ensure there are no structural abnormalities.


Last modified: July 4, 2018

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