Photo by Peter Oslanec
Jaundice is a medical condition that causes yellowing of the skin and eyes due to high levels of bilirubin in the blood. In more serious cases high bilirubin levels can result in a type of brain damage called kernicterus.
Jaundice occurs very frequently in new born babies with over half developing the condition within a few days of being born. If bilirubin levels are particularly high treatment will be needed to prevent kernicterus occurring. The usual treatment for dangerously high bilirubin levels is phototherapy.
This involves placing the baby in an incubator that shines high intensity blue light onto their skin which adds oxygen to the bilirubin resulting in it being more easily dissolved in water. This makes it easier for the baby’s liver to break down bilirubin and remove it from the blood.
Read more about Jaundice here
A baby that requires treatment will often be given phototherapy for 3-4 hours at a time with 30 minute breaks until bilirubin levels fall within safe levels.
This usually takes 1-2 days so this process is very stressful for both the parent and the baby. It also prevents important parental bonding at such an early stage in the baby’s life.
Our students came up with the innovative idea of using a blanket covered on the inside with blue LED lights. This means that a baby could receive treatment whilst also being fed and cuddled by their parents!
This would make the treatment a lot less stressful for all people involved and may even improve the treatment by covering more of the baby’s body with light.
Students successfully developed a prototype blanket that would not only treat high bilirubin levels but would also measure bilirubin levels by detecting the intensity of yellow light reflected off the baby’s skin.
This means that the progress of the treatment could be monitored non-invasively. They also developed an oxygen monitor that would help in monitoring how the treatment was progressing.
Meet the Team
Back to: Department of Physics