Jaundice persisting beyond 14 d of age (prolonged jaundice) can be a sign of serious underlying liver disease. Protocols for investigating prolonged jaundice vary in complexity and the yield from screening has not been assessed. In order to address these issues, we carried out a prospective study of term infants referred to our neonatal unit with prolonged jaundice over an 18 mo period. Infants were examined by a paediatrician and had the following investigations: a total and conjugated serum bilirubin, liver function tests, full blood count, packed cell volume, group and Coombs' test, thyroid function tests, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase levels and urine for culture. One-hundred-and-fifty-four infants were referred with prolonged jaundice out of 7,139 live births during the study period. Nine infants were referred to other paediatric specialties. One infant had a conjugated hyperbilirubinaemia, giving an incidence of conjugated hyperbilirubinaemia of 0.14 per 1,000 live births. Diagnoses included: giant cell hepatitis (n = 1), hepatoblastoma (n = 1), trisomy 9p (n = 1), urinary tract infections (n = 2), glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (n = 3) and failure to regain birthweight (n = 1).
Conclusions: In conclusion, a large number of infants referred to hospital for prolonged jaundice screening had detectable problems. The number of investigations may safely be reduced to: a total and conjugated bilirubin, packed cell volume, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase level (where appropriate), a urine for culture and inspection of a recent stool sample for bile pigmentation. Clinical examination by a paediatrician has a vital role in the screening process.