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Range of Thresholds Used for Treatment of Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia at Different Gestational Ages across Neonatal Units in Great Britain

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Author(s): Puneet Kumar Arora | Sindhu Mohandas | Deborah Ridout | Narendra Aladangady

Journal: International Journal of Clinical Medicine
ISSN 2158-284X

Volume: 02;
Issue: 05;
Start page: 593;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Neonatal Jaundice | Phototherapy | Exchange Transfusion

ABSTRACT
Objectives: To review the range of thresholds used for treatment of neonatal jaundice at different gestational ages across neonatal units in Great Britain. To investigate the time at which the threshold values plateau, in terms of hours after birth, for various gestational ages. Methods: We contacted 72 neonatal units in Great Britain and enquired about the unit guidelines for management of neonatal jaundice. We requested a copy of the guidelines and jaundice action charts used. Levels for treatment with phototherapy and exchange transfusion for various times after birth and for different gestational ages were extracted and the data was transferred to an Excel spreadsheet. Identical values were excluded so that there was no duplication of charts. The data was analysed to explore the variation in charts used and the time at which the threshold value reached a plateau was recorded for each chart. Results: Of the 72 units contacted 46 responded with charts. Four neonatal units were using formulas and one hospital was using separate chart for every gestation. The data displayed wide variation in treatment levels (phototherapy and exchange transfusion) at 12 to 168 hours after birth in the three gestational groups studied (28, 32 and 37 weeks). For a term neonate at 72 hours of age the threshold to commence phototherapy varied between 220-370 micromol/l and the exchange transfusion threshold varied between 300-510 micromol/l. A wide variation in practice was seen for all three gestations. The median plateau time was also analysed and for phototherapy this corresponded to 72 hours for all three gestations. For exchange transfusion data the median time of plateau was highest for the term babies (72 hours) and lowest for 32 weeks gestation (48 hours). There was no reference of evidence quoted in the jaundice action charts surveyed. Conclusions: Jaundice action charts reviewed in our study showed significant variation in the threshold for treatment of neonatal jaundice. Both the studied parameters (variation in threshold and the median time to plateau) point towards the fact that the charts being used in the neonatal units are not evidence based and need modification. With the lack of standard treatment guidelines for this common neonatal problem, it is likely that neonatal units are either under or over treating a significant number of babies.
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