Prevalence of Hypoalbuminemia and Elevated Bilirubin/Albumin Ratios in a Large Cohort of Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

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Abstract

Objective

To provide descriptive data on serum albumin levels and the bilirubin to albumin (B/A) ratio in neonates admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, assess the effect of gestational and chronological age on serum albumin and the B/A ratio, and evaluate the association between extreme values and mortality.

Study design

Using a retrospective cohort design, we queried the Pediatrix clinical data warehouse for all infants born between 23 and 41 weeks of gestation from 1997 to 2014 who had a report of both a serum albumin and total serum bilirubin (TSB) level on the same day between birth and 14 days of life.

Results

There were 382 190 paired albumin and bilirubin levels across 164 401 neonates (15% of the 1 072 682 infants in the clinical data warehouse). Both gestational age and postnatal age were independent factors that influenced the values for serum albumin, TSB, and B/A ratio (ANOVA; P < .0001). TSB and B/A ratios values above birth weight–specific thresholds for exchange transfusions were uncommon (<6% of infants). Hypoalbuminemia (<2.5 mg/dL) was common (29% of infants). Neonates with serum albumin levels <2.5 g/dL or with B/A ratio levels exceeding exchange thresholds were at higher risk of death compared with infants who did not exceed these levels. This association was independent of other risk factors (estimated gestational age, birth weight, sex, and the presence of a major anomaly).

Conclusion

Both gestational age and postnatal age influence TSB, albumin, and B/A ratios; hypoalbuminemia and extreme B/A ratios are associated with an increased risk of death.

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