Objectives: To establish the incidence, correlates and hearing screening outcomes of infants with severe neonatal jaundice in Nigeria.
Methods: Community-based study in which all infants attending Bacille Calmette-Guérin immunisation clinics in inner-city Lagos were enrolled into a universal hearing screening programme during which correlates of severe neonatal jaundice (requiring phototherapy and/or exchange blood transfusion) were explored with multivariable logistic regression.
Results: Of the 5262 infants enrolled, only 48.7% were born in hospitals although almost all mothers (97.9%) attended antenatal clinics. 6.7% had a history of neonatal jaundice of whom 5.5% (95% CI:4.9-6.2) received phototherapy and 1.9% (95% CI:1.5-2.3) had an exchange blood transfusion. Factors independently associated with severe neonatal jaundice were maternal religion, occupation, use of herbal preparations during pregnancy, infant's gender, weight at screening, multiple gestation and place of birth. All but two infants with severe neonatal jaundice were exclusively breast-fed. Of those who failed the hearing tests, 17.3% were treated with phototherapy and 11.3% had an exchange blood transfusion. At least 8.9% of infants requiring phototherapy and 17.3% of those requiring exchange blood transfusion were at risk of sensorineural hearing loss.
Conclusions: Severe neonatal jaundice is a significant condition associated with modifiable risk factors in this population. Policy initiatives for prevention, early detection followed by appropriate and timely intervention are urgently needed to reduce the disease burden.