Acute bilirubin encephalopathy: Some lessons learned

Semin Perinatol. 2021 Feb;45(1):151353. doi: 10.1016/j.semperi.2020.151353. Epub 2020 Dec 1.


Acute bilirubin encephalopathy (ABE) is still an insufficiently addressed cause of mortality and long-term morbidity in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This article highlights that delayed or incorrect medical advice, inaccurate bilirubin measurements as well as ineffective phototherapy are some of the relevant causes predisposing jaundiced newborns to develop extreme hyperbilirubinemia [EHB, total serum/plasma bilirubin (TB) ≥ 25 mg/dL (428 µmol/L)] and subsequent ABE. Obstacles preventing state of the art management of such infants are also discussed. Prevention of ABE cannot occur without a system-based approach tailored to suit the needs and available resources of each community. Clear set protocols, rigorous training, monitoring, and accurate documentation together with simple innovative affordable technologies that can be locally produced, are essential to observe the change desired.

MeSH terms

  • Bilirubin
  • Brain Diseases*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice, Neonatal*
  • Kernicterus* / diagnosis
  • Kernicterus* / etiology
  • Kernicterus* / prevention & control
  • Phototherapy


  • Bilirubin