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What is a BiliBlanket&Reg;?

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  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2016
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Jaundice, which causes the skin to turn a yellowish color, is a common condition in newborn infants. In the United States, for example, up to 60% of children are born with jaundice. While this condition is not usually harmful, severe jaundice in neonates can lead to brain damage if left untreated. The BiliBlanket® is a safe, portable piece of equipment used to treat infant jaundice to prevent the possibility of harmful side effects.

Jaundice is a side effect of high levels of bilirubin, a yellow pigment which circulates in the blood. This yellow pigment is a component of red blood cells, and is released when these cells are broken down. While the exact cause of neonatal jaundice is unknown, one theory is that it occurs because children are often born with excess red blood cells. When those cells are broken down by the body, the bilirubin is released. Excess amounts of bilirubin then lead to jaundice.

This condition is harmless in adults and older children. In neonates, however, the blood-brain barrier is incomplete, allowing excess bilirubin to move across this barrier and into the brain. This build-up of bilirubin can cause severe brain damage if left untreated. The BiliBlanket® is an effective and very commonly used treatment for neonatal jaundice, with the added advantage of allowing parents to treat their baby at home.

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The BiliBlanket® treats jaundice using a type of therapy called phototherapy, also known as light therapy. This works because when exposed to blue or white light, bilirubin is broken down into a form which is harmless, and is easily eliminated in stool. BiliBlankets® are constructed so that they emit the type of light needed to convert bilirubin into this harmless form.

A BiliBlanket® is a blanket which can be wrapped around a baby, or may take the form of a lighted pad upon which a baby can lie. The blanket is connected by a fiberoptic cable to a light-generating box, and emits light of the color required to treat neonatal jaundice. These blankets are often used in hospitals to treat neonatal jaundice, but are also suitable for home use. In addition to this advantage, using BiliBlanket® phototherapy is so non-invasive that parents can feed, hold, and clothe their newborn children while treatment is taking place.

During treatment children often have unusual bowel movements that are green in color, and are looser than normal, but there is no cause for alarm. These types of bowel movements are normal during phototherapy treatment and indicate that excess bilirubin is being removed from the blood. Bowel movements will return to normal once treatment has finished.

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