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Premature Babies Benefit from Early Light Therapy for Jaundice

Jaundice, a condition caused by the failure of the liver to remove toxins from the blood, is common in newborn infants, but in a percentage of extremely low birth weight babies, it can lead to serious complications including developmental disabilities, blindness and hearing loss. The study of nearly 2000 premature infants found that the babies who were treated with the light therapy early after birth had fewer complications than those babies whose treatment began later.

Dr Avroy Faneroff (AV-Roy FAN-uhr-off), professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University explains that infants are prone to jaundice because they are exposed to low levels of oxygen in utero - a condition which causes their bodies to produce extra red blood cells.

FANAROFF: The fetus, like lives at the top of Mount Everest. After birth there are very rich amounts of oxygen.

The presence of all that oxygen after birth means the extra red blood cells die off, and that produces a byproduct called bilirubin that builds up in the blood and becomes toxic. Light, explains Fanaroff- specifically *blue* light- penetrates the skin and helps speed the toxin away.

FANAROFF: The newest generation of light therapy units include LED lights that are pure blue. So we can get intensive light therapy to treat Jaundice very effectively.

This phototherapy, Fanaroff says, is an effective way to prevent the damaging effects of jaundice in premature infants. This is the first large trial looking at phototherapy treatment of jaundice in babies under a kilogram in weight.

Gretchen Cuda, 90.3