Predictive ability of a predischarge hour-specific serum bilirubin for subsequent significant hyperbilirubinemia in healthy term and near-term newborns

Pediatrics. 1999 Jan;103(1):6-14. doi: 10.1542/peds.103.1.6.


Objective: To assess the predictive ability of a universal predischarge serum bilirubin measurement to screen for risk of subsequent significant hyperbilirubinemia in the direct Coombs negative healthy term and near-term newborn during the first postnatal week.

Methods: Total serum bilirubin (TSB) levels were obtained at the time of the routine metabolic screen in all term and near-term newborns cared for in the Pennsylvania Hospital Well Baby Nursery (n = 13 003). Postnatal age (in hours) at the time of TSB measurement was recorded. A percentile-based bilirubin nomogram for the first week was constructed from hour-specific predischarge and postdischarge TSB values of newborns (n = 2840; median BW = 3230 g and median gestational age = 39 weeks) who met classification criteria for healthy newborns (excluding those with a positive direct Coombs test or those requiring phototherapy before age 60 hours) and who were enrolled in a hospital supervised home or outpatient follow-up program. The accuracy of the predischarge TSB as a predictor of subsequent degree of hyperbilirubinemia was determined.

Results: The study patients in the nomogram were racially diverse. Nearly 60% were breastfed. Predischarge, 6.1% of the study population (172/2840) had TSB values in the high-risk zone (>/=95th percentile) at 18 to 72 hours; of these, 39.5% (68/172) remained in that zone (likelihood ratio [LR] = 14.08, sensitivity = 54%; specificity = 96.2%, probability = 39.5%). Predischarge, 32.1% of the population (912/2840) had TSB values in the intermediate-risk zone. In a clinically significant minority of these newborns (58/912 or 6.4%), the postdischarge TSB moved into the high-risk zone (LR of this move: 3.2 from the upper-intermediate zone and.48 from the lower-intermediate risk zone). The predischarge TSB in 61.8% of the newborns (1756/2840) was in the low-risk zone (<40th percentile) and there was no measurable risk for significant hyperbilirubinemia (LR = 0, sensitivity = 100%; specificity = 64.7%; probability = 0%).

Conclusions: An hour-specific TSB before hospital discharge can predict which newborn is at high, intermediate or low risk for developing clinically significant hyperbilirubinemia (specifically defined as TSB levels >/=95th percentile for age in hours). Risk designation and subsequent increases or decreases of in TSB can be easily monitored on an hour-specific percentile based predictive bilirubin nomogram. A predischarge TSB measured as a universal policy would facilitate targeted intervention and follow-up in a safe, cost-effective manner. In conjunction with bilirubin practice parameter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, it could reduce the potential risk for bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bilirubin / blood*
  • Electronic Data Processing
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hyperbilirubinemia / blood
  • Hyperbilirubinemia / diagnosis*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Jaundice, Neonatal
  • Male
  • Neonatal Screening*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Bilirubin