Objective: To determine the current trends in the incidence and outcome of bilirubin encephalopathy among Nigerian babies.
Methods: A review of the hospital records of babies managed for bilirubin encephalopathy at the Wesley Guild Hospital (WGH), Ilesa and Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, both in southwest Nigeria between 2001 and 2005 was carried out. The age, sex, weight, body temperature on admission, place of delivery and outcome of hospitalization were studied. The fatal cases and the survivors were compared for risk factors for mortality.
Results: Fifty eight (3.4%) and 57 (2.3%) babies had bilirubin encephalopathy out of 1706 and 2492 total neonatal admissions at OOUTH and WGH respectively. Of these 115 babies, 3 (2.6%), 84 (73.0%) and 28 (24.3%) were aged <3 days, 3-6 days and 7 days or more. Sixty eight (59.1%) babies were delivered in orthodox health facilities. Aside clinically suspected cases of G6PD deficiency, ABO incompatibility and septicaemia were commonly associated with bilirubin encephalopathy, Forty four (38.3%), 36 (31.3%) and 35 (30.4%) had Unconjugated bilirubin of <340 micromol/L, 341-425 micromol/L and >425 micromol/L respectively Sixty eight (59.1%) were discharged, 42 (36.5%) died while 5 (4.7%) were discharged against medical advice. Prematurity, low birth weight, severe anaemia and inability to do Exchange Blood Transfusion were significant risk factors for mortality among babies with bilirubin encephalopathy. Cerebral palsy, seizure disorders and deafness were the leading neurological sequelae (86.4%, 40.9% and 36.4% respectively) among the 22 survivors who were followed up.
Conclusion: Bilirubin encephalopathy remains a common clinical finding in Nigeria and the associated mortalities and neurological sequelae are significant.