In which cases is phototherapy used in newborns?

When he drinks, he correctly replaces red blood cells, but fails to eliminate bilirubin, what is called jaundice occurs, and that is at this moment, when in addition to the normal immediate care that any newborn receives, is resorted to a stricter surveillance and immediate medical control, it is worth noting that there are some previous conditions in the newborn, which make him a candidate to require phototherapy. 

Phototherapy is the response to a condition of the newborn, this treatment consists in exposing the baby to a fluorescent light of the bile lights, directly to the baby’s skin, under certain instructions, this blue light projects waves that work to break down the bilirubin of the body and be expelled through the urine and feces, being bilirubin a substance that makes the baby’s skin and eyes turn a yellow color, staying in the blood of the newborn. 

When the treatment of phototherapy is applied in the newborn

There are several conditions that involve the treatment of phototherapy in newborns, these cases are related to jaundice, and it is commonly because he drinks presents problems with the liver, gallbladder or pancreas; this jaundice occurs when bilirubin accumulates in high amounts in the body. Hospital phototherapy treatment is applied when there is a precedent that complicates the baby’s evolution, such as: 

  • There are too many red blood cells dying or breaking down (haemolysis) and going to the liver.
  • The liver is overloaded or damaged.
  • Bilirubin from the liver is not able to properly move to the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Conditions that can cause jaundice include: Infection of the liver by a virus (hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D and hepatitis E) or by a parasite.
  • Use of certain drugs (such as an overdose of paracetamol) or reactions to other drugs or exposure to toxic drugs (such as poisonous fungi).
  • Congenital abnormalities or disorders present from birth that make it difficult for the body to break down bilirubin.
  • Chronic liver disease.
  • Gallstones or gallbladder disorders that cause obstruction of the bile duct.
  • Blood disorders.
  • Pancreatic cancer.
  • Accumulation of bile in the gallbladder due to pressure in the abdominal area during pregnancy (jaundice of pregnancy)

How to apply phototherapy in newborns in the hospital

When jaundice cannot be controlled at home and, conversely, bilirubin levels continue to increase, causing severe jaundice, a light used for phototherapy is applied in the hospital which helps your newborn baby’s body eliminate extra bilirubin, medical personnel apply some applications to achieve effectiveness in treatment preserving the life of the newborn:

  • The newborn is placed under the lights without clothes or just wearing a diaper.
  • The eyes are covered to protect them from bright light.
  • The newborn often flips over.
  • Medical staff should constantly record the newborn’s body temperature, vital signs, and light reactions. Also note the duration of treatment and position of the lamps.
  • The newborn may be dehydrated by lights. Intravenous fluids may be given during treatment.
  • Blood tests are done to check the bilirubin level. When these levels have fallen sufficiently, phototherapy will be complete.

Types of apparatus for administering phototherapy

  • Halogen lamps: produce greater central irradiation with less irradiation at the periphery. They can cause significant heat loss.
  • Fluorescent lamps: the most effective light is the special blue light. They are the most used.
  • LED lamps: they are the most recent lamps and have the advantage of allowing the intensity of irradiation to be attenuated or increased using a single unit. They also cause less heat loss than conventional lamps.
  • Fiber optic blankets: they should not be used as first line treatment for newborns over 37 weeks of gestational age.

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