Transcutaneous bilirubin measurements and serum total bilirubin levels in indigenous African infants

Tina M Slusher, Ishaya A Angyo, Fidela Bode-Thomas, Francis Akor, Sunday D Pam, Adedotun A Adetunji, Donald W McLaren, Ronald J Wong, Hendrik J Vreman, David K Stevenson
Pediatrics 2004, 113 (6): 1636-41

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine whether transcutaneous bilirubin (TcB) measurements correlate with serum total bilirubin (STB) levels in indigenous, darkly pigmented African newborns with varying degrees of skin pigmentation, some of which had developed kernicterus.

METHODS: Jaundiced infants who were < or =2 weeks of age and admitted to Baptist Medical Center-Eku (Eku; n = 29) and Jos University Teaching Hospital (Jos; n = 98) in Nigeria were studied. TcB measurements using the BiliChek were made simultaneously with blood sampling for STB measurements by spectrophotometry before phototherapy.

RESULTS: Using linear regression analysis, we found that measurements of TcB correlated well with those of STB with r values of.90 and.88 for Eku and Jos, respectively. Mean bias and imprecision of TcB measurements as compared with STB measurements for the total population was 0.5 +/- 7.6 mg/dL using the method of Bland and Altman. At STB > or 12 mg/dL, correlation (r =.84) and bias and imprecision (-1.2 +/- 8.6 mg/dL) of measurements were only slightly poorer. Furthermore, when infants were grouped by degree of skin pigmentation, correlations of TcB and STB measurements remained strong.

CONCLUSIONS: From these results, we can conclude that TcB measurements are a useful and reliable index for estimating STB levels in pigmented neonates, including those with hyperbilirubinemia and kernicterus. In the absence of reliable STB measurements, the relatively simple and noninvasive TcB measurements can be an important adjunct in directing phototherapy and exchange transfusions, thereby preventing bilirubin-induced morbidity and mortality in low-technology clinical environments.

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