Assessment, management, and incidence of neonatal jaundice in healthy neonates cared for in primary care: a prospective cohort study

Sci Rep. 2022 Aug 23;12(1):14385. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-17933-2.


Jaundice caused by hyperbilirubinaemia is a common phenomenon during the neonatal period. Population-based studies evaluating assessment, management, and incidence of jaundice and need for phototherapy among otherwise healthy neonates are scarce. We prospectively explored these aspects in a primary care setting via assessing care as usual during the control phase of a stepped wedge cluster randomised controlled trial.We conducted a prospective cohort study embedded in the Screening and TreAtment to Reduce Severe Hyperbilirubinaemia in Infants in Primary care (STARSHIP) Trial. Healthy neonates were included in seven primary care birth centres (PCBCs) in the Netherlands between July 2018 and March 2020. Neonates were eligible for inclusion if their gestational age was ≥ 35 weeks, they were admitted in a PCBC for at least 2 days during the first week of life, and if they did not previously receive phototherapy. Outcomes were the findings of visual assessment to detect jaundice, jaundice incidence and management, and the need for phototherapy treatment in the primary care setting.860 neonates were included of whom 608 (71.9%) were visibly jaundiced at some point during admission in the PCBC, with 20 being 'very yellow'. Of the latter, four (20%) did not receive total serum bilirubin (TSB) quantification. TSB levels were not associated with the degree of visible jaundice (p = 0.416). Thirty-one neonates (3.6%) received phototherapy and none received an exchange transfusion. Five neonates did not receive phototherapy despite having a TSB level above phototherapy threshold.Jaundice is common in otherwise healthy neonates cared for in primary care. TSB quantification was not always performed in very jaundiced neonates, and not all neonates received phototherapy when indicated. Quality improvement initiatives are required, including alternative approaches to identifying potentially severe hyperbilirubinaemia.Trial registration: NL6997 (Dutch Trial Register; Old NTR ID 7187), registered 3 May 2018.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bilirubin
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia
  • Hyperbilirubinemia, Neonatal*
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice*
  • Jaundice, Neonatal* / diagnosis
  • Jaundice, Neonatal* / epidemiology
  • Jaundice, Neonatal* / therapy
  • Phototherapy
  • Primary Health Care
  • Prospective Studies


  • Bilirubin

Associated data

  • NTR/NL6997
  • NTR/NTR7187