Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Sheree Kuo, MD

Reader 2

Patrick Ferree, PhD

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Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

2018 Maya Y Matsumoto



Hyperbilirubinemia is a condition that affects most infants, but typically self-resolves and is not harmful. However, if bilirubin levels exceed neuroprotective defenses, the compound can cross the blood-brain barrier and have neurotoxic and potentially fatal effects. Treatment of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia with phototherapy is necessary for the prevention of kernicterus. Guidelines for the use of phototherapy in infants born at ≥ 35 weeks’ gestation were published by Bhutani et al. and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Consensus-based recommendations for phototherapy treatment and exchange transfusion of premature infants were published in 2012 by Maisels, et al. However, there are no published recommendations for the timing of screening for hyperbilirubinemia in NICU patients. In 2012, the Kapʻiolani Medical Center for Women & Children Neonatology Division implemented internal guidelines for phototherapy with recommendations for the timing of screening serum bilirubin levels, based on the group’s opinion. Five years later, the current study queried whether these guidelines for screening were appropriate.


The present study sought to describe current practices of obtaining serum bilirubin levels and the use of phototherapy in the NICU during the first five days of life. It was hypothesized that many bilirubin levels obtained at ≤ 48 hours of life are below published recommended treatment thresholds and are potentially unnecessary.


Retrospective chart review was performed on all infants admitted to the NICU at

< 24 hours of life, from July 2016-June 2017. Eligible infants were divided into three gestation age groups: ≤ 28, 29-35, and ≥ 36 weeks at birth. Patient demographics, bilirubin levels, and phototherapy treatment were noted. The primary outcome of interest was the percent of serum bilirubin levels obtained during the first 48 hours of life that did not meet phototherapy treatment criteria.


931 charts were reviewed. Infants born at ≤ 28, 29-35 and ≥ 36 weeks’ gestation made up 10%, 51% and 39% of the cohort. Overall mortality was 3%, and no exchange transfusions were performed during the study period. At least one serum bilirubin level was obtained for 96% of the patients, but only 55% were treated with phototherapy within the first five days of life. Phototherapy was rarely prescribed on day of life (DOL) 1 (0.7%). By DOL 2, a total of 563 bilirubin levels were obtained, but only 108 infants (19%) were treated with phototherapy. However, one-third of these patients’ bilirubin levels did not meet published criteria for treatment. The timing of phototherapy treatment varied by gestational age. Ninety percent of infants born ≤ 28 weeks’ gestation who received phototherapy were treated starting between DOL 2-3. In contrast, eighty-five percent of infants born ≥ 29 weeks’ gestation who received phototherapy, started on DOL 3-5.


Far more bilirubin levels were obtained than courses of phototherapy prescribed. Given the distinct patterns of phototherapy for infants of varying gestational age, there is ample opportunity to improve resource utilization with targeted recommendations for obtaining screening bilirubin levels in the neonate without early jaundice.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.