Is hyperbilirubinemia a contraindication for neonatal circumcision? A survey of practice patterns of pediatric urologists and a review of the literature

J Pediatr Urol. 2021 Feb;17(1):88.e1-88.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpurol.2020.10.008. Epub 2020 Oct 10.


Introduction and objective: 50-80% of term newborns develop jaundice, or hyperbilirubinemia (HB), in their first week. The vast majority have benign etiologies, including physiologic jaundice of the newborn and breast milk/breastfeeding jaundice, which do not affect the synthetic capacity of the liver, thus conferring a low risk of peri-procedural bleeding. Though uncommon, HB in the setting of sepsis, biliary obstruction, or metabolic disease, may increase procedural bleeding risk. Circumcision of neonates with HB has not been well studied. We sought to characterize practice patterns among Society of Pediatric Urology (SPU) members and to explore whether HB confers increased bleeding risk for newborn circumcision.

Methods: An anonymous survey of 14 multiple-choice questions was sent to members of the SPU listserv. Questions regarding circumcision and HB were presented. We performed a literature review regarding whether HB confers increased surgical bleeding risk.

Results: 100/234 (43%) SPU members completed the survey. The majority (79/100) perform neonatal circumcision and use the Gomco© clamp (68%). 24/79 (30%) factor total bilirubin (Tbili) level in their decision prior to performing circumcision. Of those who consider HB a factor, 11/24 (46%) had cutoff Tbili levels at which they await improvement prior to proceeding. The most common cutoff level was Tbili level of 10-15 mg/dL (6/11, 55%).

Discussion: Existing data suggest a possible increased bleeding risk isolated to cases of HB in the setting of biliary obstruction or other associated relevant findings (ill infant, recent infection, congenital syndromes) or known personal/family history (fulminant liver disease, familial bleeding diatheses). While literature from Jewish Mohels and Talmudic discussion suggest that elevated Tbili may be a contraindication to circumcision, no scientific studies exist directly assessing the impact of HB on bleeding risk with circumcision. A review of the scientific literature suggests that isolated HB in otherwise healthy newborns does not increase bleeding risk.

Conclusions: 30% of pediatric urologists survey respondents consider HB a potential contraindication to neonatal circumcision. Despite varied practices in circumcising jaundiced babies, neonatal jaundice rarely confers increased bleeding risks. While deferring circumcision is appropriate in an ill infant with HB, or in those with a genetic/congenital syndrome or with family history of coagulopathic, review of the scientific literature suggests that in otherwise healthy neonates, elevated Tbili likely represents benign causes and is unlikely to increase bleeding risk.

Keywords: Circumcision; Hyperbilirubinemia; Infant; Jaundice; Male; Newborn.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Contraindications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice, Neonatal*
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urologists*