Background: East Asians have inherently higher bilirubin levels at birth than whites. The potential for unnecessary treatment makes jaundice a problem of public health and clinical significance.
Objectives: To report the occurrence of jaundice diagnoses in East Asian and mixed East Asian/white infants in Washington State in recent years, and to compare the risk of diagnosis with neonatal jaundice among these infants, relative to white infants.
Design: Population-based cohort study in Washington state. Participants were infants of full East Asian parentage (n = 3000), maternal Asian parentage (n = 2997), paternal Asian parentage (n = 2048), and white parentage (n = 3000). Diagnoses of jaundice and "severe jaundice" were identified using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) diagnosis and procedure codes from hospital discharge records.
Results: Infants of full East Asian parentage were more likely to be diagnosed with jaundice than were white infants (relative risk [RR], 1.37; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.16-1.62). For infants with Asian mothers and white fathers, the RR was 1.09 (95% CI, 0.91-1.30). Infants with Asian fathers and white mothers had an RR of 1.26 (95% CI, 1.05-1.52). The risk of severe jaundice requiring phototherapy, blood transfusion, or rehospitalization, however, was significantly elevated only for infants of full East Asian parentage (RR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.12-2.58).
Conclusions: Diagnoses of neonatal jaundice occurred more often among East Asian and mixed Asian/white infants than among white infants. However, the risk of jaundice requiring extended hospital stay, rehospitalization, phototherapy, or blood transfusion was elevated only for infants of full East Asian parentage.