Neonatal hyperbilirubinaemia: a global perspective

Lancet Child Adolesc Health. 2018 Aug;2(8):610-620. doi: 10.1016/S2352-4642(18)30139-1. Epub 2018 Jun 28.


Hyperbilirubinaemia, presenting as jaundice, is a ubiquitous and frequently benign condition in newborn babies but is a leading cause of hospitalisation in the first week of life. In some infants jaundice can become severe, progressing to acute bilirubin encephalopathy and kernicterus with a substantial risk of neonatal mortality and long-term neurodevelopmental impairments. Severe hyperbilirubinaemia and its sequelae continue to occur in industrialised countries with functioning medical systems and a disproportionately high burden also persists in low-income and middle-income countries due primarily to delays in delivering effective treatments that are routinely available in high-income countries. In this Review we summarise up-to-date evidence on the epidemiology of neonatal jaundice including its global burden based on estimates of its prevalence, and both fatal and non-fatal health outcomes. We also discuss the management of severe hyperbilirubinaemia including the prevention of kernicterus, and highlight future directions for research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness
  • Forecasting
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia, Neonatal* / diagnosis
  • Hyperbilirubinemia, Neonatal* / epidemiology
  • Hyperbilirubinemia, Neonatal* / therapy
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Risk Factors