Unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia is overestimated in neonates with cholestasis. A more reliable method is proposed

Am J Clin Pathol. 1985 Dec;84(6):752-6. doi: 10.1093/ajcp/84.6.752.


Unconjugated bilirubin was determined in 458 serum samples from 160 neonatal and pediatric patients by using two approaches. The first approach was to calculate indirect bilirubin by subtracting direct bilirubin, as measured by a diazo solution assay, from total bilirubin quantified by a Jendrassik-Grof procedure. The second approach was actually to measure the unconjugated bilirubin fraction using a multilayered slide. For samples containing little or no conjugated bilirubin, correlation between the calculated indirect bilirubin value and the unconjugated bilirubin measured by the slide was judged acceptable. Samples containing increased levels of conjugated bilirubin, however, yielded discrepancies between the approaches including differences of up to 5-10 mg/dL and more. Moreover, the magnitudes of the differences correlated with the amounts of conjugated bilirubin present in the samples. The unconjugated bilirubin values given by the slide were found to correlate more closely than the calculated indirect values with results obtained by an HPLC procedure that may be regarded as the most reliable method available. Therefore, we find that the slide provides a more accurate measure of unconjugated bilirubin than does the indirect bilirubin value in specimens from pediatric patients having evidence of cholestasis. The authors also believe that the magnitude of the difference in the values could make a difference in therapeutic strategies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Bilirubin / blood*
  • Chemical Fractionation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cholestasis / blood
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia / blood
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice, Neonatal / blood*
  • Methods
  • Spectrum Analysis


  • Bilirubin