New checks for jaundice in newborn babies

NICE guidelines will mean blood tests for all newborns with suspected jaundice


Guidelines have been announced by the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to perform blood tests on all newborns who may be suffering from jaundice.


In an effort to standardise jaundice diagnosis, NICE wants to move away from using the visual appearance of babies (i.e. yellowish skin) to diagnose the severity of the condition. Jaundice is experienced by most babies to some degree and is harmless in the majority of cases. However, it can occasionally be fatal or cause brain damage.

Jaundice appears as a yellow tinge to the baby’s skin and eyes which is caused by the deposit of a waste product called bilirubin. A baby’s immature liver can find it difficult to remove this chemical from the body.

NICE says that all babies suspected of having jaundice should have blood tests to check levels of bilirubin every six hours. This will help health professionals decide the level of treatment, from light therapy to blood transfusion.


“Although the condition does have the potential to become serious, it can usually be easily treated with timely and appropriate medical care. This guideline will ensure that happens,” said Dr Fergus Macbeth, director of the centre for Clinical Practice at NICE.

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