Assessment, management, and incidence of neonatal jaundice in healthy neonates cared for in primary care: a prospective cohort study

Berthe A.M. van der Geest*, Malou J.S. de Mol, STARSHIP Study Group, Ivana S.A. Barendse, Johanna P. de Graaf, Loes C.M. Bertens, Marten J. Poley, Erwin Ista, René F. Kornelisse, Irwin K.M. Reiss, Eric A.P. Steegers, Jasper V. Been

*Corresponding author for this work

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Jaundice caused by hyperbilirubinaemia is a common phenomenon during the neonatal period. Population-based studies evaluating assessment, management, and incidence of jaundice and need for phototherapy among otherwise healthy neonates are scarce. We prospectively explored these aspects in a primary care setting via assessing care as usual during the control phase of a stepped wedge cluster randomised controlled trial. We conducted a prospective cohort study embedded in the Screening and TreAtment to Reduce Severe Hyperbilirubinaemia in Infants in Primary care (STARSHIP) Trial. Healthy neonates were included in seven primary care birth centres (PCBCs) in the Netherlands between July 2018 and March 2020. Neonates were eligible for inclusion if their gestational age was ≥ 35 weeks, they were admitted in a PCBC for at least 2 days during the first week of life, and if they did not previously receive phototherapy. Outcomes were the findings of visual assessment to detect jaundice, jaundice incidence and management, and the need for phototherapy treatment in the primary care setting. 860 neonates were included of whom 608 (71.9%) were visibly jaundiced at some point during admission in the PCBC, with 20 being ‘very yellow’. Of the latter, four (20%) did not receive total serum bilirubin (TSB) quantification. TSB levels were not associated with the degree of visible jaundice (p = 0.416). Thirty-one neonates (3.6%) received phototherapy and none received an exchange transfusion. Five neonates did not receive phototherapy despite having a TSB level above phototherapy threshold. Jaundice is common in otherwise healthy neonates cared for in primary care. TSB quantification was not always performed in very jaundiced neonates, and not all neonates received phototherapy when indicated. Quality improvement initiatives are required, including alternative approaches to identifying potentially severe hyperbilirubinaemia. Trial registration: NL6997 (Dutch Trial Register; Old NTR ID 7187), registered 3 May 2018.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14385
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by The Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), grant number 843002805, and an Erasmus MC Efficiency Research grant, grant number 2016-16107. The funders had no role in the design of the study, data collection, analysis and interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, nor in the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


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