Clinical features of bilirubin encephalopathy

Clin Perinatol. 1990 Jun;17(2):371-9.


Clinical features of bilirubin encephalopathy vary depending on the age of the infant and the degree of hyperbilirubinemia. In term infants with hyperbilirubinemia, three distinct clinical phases are apparent in the first weeks of life, and long-term consequences include extrapyramidal disturbances (particularly athetosis), hearing loss, gaze abnormalities (particularly limitation of upward gaze), and, in a minority, intellectual deficits. In term infants with moderate hyperbilirubinemia, minor delay in motor development during the first year has been demonstrated, but with longer follow-up this delay is not apparent. Associated conditions such as sepsis, anoxia, and acidosis may increase the likelihood of neurotoxicity of bilirubin in these infants. The clinical consequences of moderate hyperbilirubinemia in premature infants are unclear. No acute clinical syndrome is recognizable during the first weeks. The results of follow-up studies are variable. Hearing loss is the commonest consequence. Follow-up through age 2 years in one large study suggests that static encephalopathy may be a sequel. Longer follow-up is needed to understand the clinical consequences of moderate hyperbilirubinemia in this important group of infants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / diagnosis
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases / pathology
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / complications
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / diagnosis
  • Kernicterus / complications
  • Kernicterus / diagnosis*
  • Kernicterus / pathology