Prolonged Jaundice Clinic

Your child has been given an appointment to the prolonged jaundice clinic.

This provides information on why you have been asked to attend and what to expect on the day.

Paediatric Investigation Unit (PIU) Tel: 01473 702589

Paediatric Assessment Unit (PAU) Tel: 01473 702198

What is prolonged jaundice?

Prolonged jaundice is jaundice that persists beyond 14 days of life, or beyond 21 days of life if your baby was born prematurely.

Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that you may have noticed yourself, or may have been picked up by your midwife or health visitor.

Babies in the first few days of life can become jaundiced, which may need to be treated with ultraviolet lights.

Prolonged jaundice is a separate condition that can occur whether or not your baby was jaundiced initially.

Many babies have prolonged jaundice, but usually there is nothing wrong and no further treatment is needed.

Information about prolonged jaundice

When the baby is in the uterus (womb) they have different oxygen-carrying cells as they dont breathe air. When a baby is born they break down their old oxygen-carrying cells and make new ones. Breaking down these cells releases a yellow pigment called bilirubin.

In most babies the bilirubin that is produced is broken down in the liver. One of the tests your baby will need is a blood test to find out how much of the bilirubin is being broken down,

This is called a split bilirubin, or conjugated bilirubin test.

In most babies with prolonged jaundice, the total amount of bilirubin won’t be high enough to cause concern, and the split bilirubin test will be low. In these cases we do not need to do any further tests or treatment.

In a very small number of babies, the levels may be high or the split bilirubin test will indicate the liver may not be working well, which can be serious.

We test every baby with prolonged jaundice so we can find the small number of babies that have these problems as soon as possible.

There are other common causes of prolonged jaundice, one of which is that the body is breaking down too many oxygen-carrying cells. We test for this with a blood test called a full blood count.

Breast fed babies are more likely to have prolonged jaundice. This jaundice is harmless and is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. It is not a sign that breastfeeding is not going well.

The midwife or health visitor who identified your baby as having prolonged jaundice will have discussed this with a children’s doctor. Depending on the information given, we will either have seen your baby straightaway, or offered an appointment in the Prolonged Jaundice Clinic.

At the Prolonged Jaundice Clinic you will be seen by a doctor. You will be able to go home without waiting for the results.

Your baby will need a blood test. This is usually taken using a needle in the back of his/her hand, although occasionally it may be taken from a foot.

We will offer your baby some sucrose syrup for pain relief – this is proven to be very effective for this age group.

You should receive your baby’s results as follows:

  • you will receive a letter within 14 working days after the clinic with your baby’s blood results;
  • your GP and health visitor will also receive copies of any letters; but
  • in the rare case that a serious problem is suspected, we will contact you sooner.

Sometimes we need to arrange to repeat the tests if the results were borderline – this is not unusual.

If you have not heard from the hospital about your baby’s test results by the timings above, please contact the Paediatric Investigation Unit on 01473 702589 between 9am and 5pm.