Acute, Severe Bilirubin Encephalopathy in a Newborn

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In recent years, changes in health care practices including the early discharge of newborns have transformed the management of neonatal jaundice into an outpatient problem. At the same time, there has been a resurgence in the incidence of kernicterus. We report the case of a term male infant who presented to our emergency department at 4 days of age with severe jaundice and who subsequently died with autopsy findings of kernicterus. We review the infant's presentation and hospital course, diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, and autopsy findings. In the current era of increased frequency of breast-feeding, shortened hospital stays, and inconsistent follow-up after hospital discharge, emergency department physicians should be alerted to the rare but increasing occurrence of severe hyperbilirubinemia and kernicterus.

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