Light-Emitting Diodes: A Novel Light Source for Phototherapy

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High intensity light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are being studied as possible light sources for the phototherapy of hyperbilirubinemic neonates. These power-efficient, low heat-producing light sources have the potential to deliver high intensity light of narrow wavelength band in the blue-green portion of the visible light spectrum, which overlaps the absorption spectrum of bilirubin (BR). We compared the efficacy between single LEDs of different color and then constructed a prototype phototherapy device using 300 blue LEDs. The efficacy of this device was compared with that of conventional phototherapy devices by measuring the in vitro photodegradation of BR in human serum albumin. When blue, blue-green, green, and white LEDs were compared, the blue light was the most effective in degrading BR by 28% of dark control, followed by blue-green (18% of control), and then white light (14% of control). Green light was the least effective (11% of control). The prototype device with three focused arrays, each with 100 blue LEDs, generated greater irradiance (>200 µW·cm-2·nm-1) than any of the conventional devices tested. It also supported the greatest rate of BR photodegradation. We conclude that light from LEDs should be considered a more effective treatment for hyperbilirubinemia than light from presently used phototherapy devices. Furthermore, the unique characteristics of this light source may make it especially suitable for use in safe and lightweight home phototherapy devices.

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