Significant hyperbilirubinemia among well neonates due for discharge at Kawempe-Mulago Hospital, prevalence, factors associated, and accuracy of transcutaneous bilirubinometry for screening

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health (East Africa)


Background: Neonates in low resource settings with a lack of pre-discharge screening and early intervention are at risk for complications associated with significant hyperbilirubinemia (SHB).

Objectives: To determine the prevalence, factors associated and performance of transcutaneous bilirubin (TCB) in identifying well neonates with SHB.

Methods: Over a one month period 235 well neonates 24 to 72 hours of age due for discharge at Kamempe-Mulago Hospital were enrolled in this study. Visual inspection using Kramer rule, transcutaneous bilirubin over the sternum using Draeger JM103 bilirubinometer, and serum bilirubin were determined. Neonates with SHB (total serum bilirubin warranting treatment) were referred for treatment. Relevant data were analyzed. A P-value of <0.05 was considered significant at 95% confidence interval.

Results: Thirty two (13.6%) of the neonates had SHB and three (1.3%) had levels above exchange transfusion threshold. Significant hyperbilirubinemia was independently associated with CRP ≥ 10mg/l (AOR 3.96, CI 1.23-12.73, p 0.021), ABO discordance (AOR 3.67, CI 1.28-10.49, p 0.015), jaundice in a previous sibling (AOR 3.565, CI 1.10-11.51, p 0.034) and time of first feed > 1 hour (AOR 2.74, CI 1.10-6.90, p 0.007). The sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values of TCB were 96.5%, 84.6%, 47.5% and 99.4% respectively compared to 31.2%, 98.5%, 76.9% and 90% respectively for visual assessment (Kramer grading).

Conclusions: A significant number of well neonates have SHB. Transcutaneous bilirubinometry is a suitable screening tool in this setting. Early initiation of feeding should be promoted. The cause for high CRP among well neonates with SHB needs to be studied further.

Publication ( Name of Journal)

African Health Sciences