How Phototherapy Works On Jaundice

Jaundice And Its Symptomatology

With jaundice affecting over half of all newborns, phototherapy has become an integral part of most maternity wards and neonatal intensive care units. Infants with jaundice exhibit a yellowing of the skin and eyes due to an excess of bilirubin in their blood. They may also display drowsiness, dark urine and pale stools. The high incidence of jaundice is attributed to many factors, including underdevelopment of the liver due to premature birth, bruising during the delivery process and dehydration due to insufficient nutrients or calories. Fortunately, phototherapy offers a successful means of alleviating jaundice and is available in multiple application modes, including mobile phototherapy lamps and biliblankets.

The Use Of Phototherapy To Treat Jaundice

Phototherapy emerged as a treatment for jaundice after nurses discovered that sunlight had a positive impact on the skin color of jaundiced babies. Researchers found that bilirubin, the yellowish pigment in babies with jaundice, exhibited increased sensitivity to light in certain regions of the spectrum. When infants with jaundice were exposed to this light, the yellowing of their skin decreased. This discovery led to the development of medical devices created specifically for the purpose of providing phototherapy to infants. The most common way that phototherapy treats jaundice is by placing the infant under a special phototherapy lamp or in an infant warmer with phototherapy. Biliblankets are another popular means of administering phototherapy to infants with jaundice.

Phototherapy Lamps And Infant Warmers To Treat Jaundice

The application of phototherapy typically occurs within a hospital environment. Phototherapy involves the use of a mobile phototherapy lamp or an infant warming device. When using a mobile phototherapy lamp, the infant is placed in a bassinet and positioned underneath a rectangular UVB light source that is positioned on a tall mobile stand. An infant warmer is a larger, all-inclusive device that features a special bassinet with integrated heat lamp designed to treat hypothermia. Many infant warmers have integrated phototherapy due to the prevalence of jaundice in some babies with hypothermia. Regardless of whether a standard lamp or an infant warmer is used to administer phototherapy, the goal of phototherapy is to expose as much of the skin as possible to the light while protecting the eyes. Bilirubin levels are measured on a regular basis until the jaundice is alleviated.

Biliblankets As A Means Of Administering Phototherapy

Biliblankets are another effective means of treating jaundiced infants. Like infant warmers and phototherapy lamps, biliblankets administer therapeutic light to jaundiced babies. However, biliblankets differ from the other modes of phototherapy in the way the phototherapy is administered. Biliblankets involve the use of a fiber optic cable that transmits therapeutic light that is produced by a portable light-emitting generator. The cable disperses the light to the infant through the use of a pad or blanket. Biliblankets are normally reserved for those cases of jaundice that are not severe and offer elements of convenience compared to more traditional modes of phototherapy. Specifically, they are more portable than phototherapy lamps and infant warmers and biliblankets allow a jaundiced infant to be treated with phototherapy at home.

Cite this page: Nugent, Pam M.S., "How Phototherapy Works On Jaundice," in PsychologyDictionary.org, March 25, 2016, https://psychologydictionary.org/article/how-phototherapy-works-on-jaundice/ (accessed December 18, 2018).
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