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.
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