Extreme neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, acute bilirubin encephalopathy, and kernicterus spectrum disorder in children with galactosemia

Laura F Bech, Mette Line Donneborg, Allan M Lund, Finn Ebbesen
Pediatric Research 2018, 84 (2): 228-232

BACKGROUND: Galactosemia has not been recognized as a cause of extreme neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, although growing evidence supports this association.

METHODS: In a retrospective cohort study, we identified children with galactosemia due to GALT deficiency using the Danish Metabolic Laboratory Database. Among these, we identified children with extreme neonatal hyperbilirubinemia or symptoms of ABE. Extreme neonatal hyperbilirubinemia was defined as maximum total serum bilirubin (TSBmax) ) level ≥450 µmol/L and a ratio of conjugated serum bilirubin/TSB <0.30.

RESULTS: We identified 21 children with galactosemia (incidence:1:48,000). Seven children developed extreme neonatal hyperbilirubinemia (median [range] TSBmax level: 491 [456-756] µmol/L), accounting for 1.7% of all extreme neonatal hyperbilirubinemia cases. During the first 10 days of life, hyperbilirubinemia was predominantly of unconjugated type. Four children developed symptoms of intermediate/advanced ABE. One additional child had symptoms of intermediate/advanced ABE without having extreme neonatal hyperbilirubinemia. On follow-up, one child had KSD.

CONCLUSIONS: Galactosemia is a potential cause of extreme neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, ABE, and KSD. It is crucial that putative galactosemic children are treated aggressively with phototherapy to prevent ABE and KSD. Thus it is important that galactosemia is part of the work up for unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia.

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