Kernicterus is brain damage caused by unconjugated bilirubin deposition in basal ganglia and brain stem nuclei. Normally, bilirubin bound to serum albumin stays in the intravascular space. However, bilirubin can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause kernicterus when serum bilirubin concentration is markedly elevated hyperbilirubinemia , serum albumin concentration is markedly low eg, in preterm infants , or bilirubin is displaced from albumin by competitive binders eg, sulfisoxazole, ceftriaxone , and aspirin ; free fatty acids and hydrogen ions in fasting, septic, or acidotic infants. In preterm infants, kernicterus may not cause recognizable clinical symptoms or signs. Early symptoms of kernicterus in term infants are lethargy, poor feeding, and vomiting. Opisthotonos, oculogyric crisis, seizures, and death may follow.
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Kernicterus is a type of brain damage most often seen in babies. This is known as newborn jaundice. Kernicterus is much rarer. It involves dangerously high bilirubin levels. Kernicterus is a medical emergency.
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Kernicterus , also known as chronic bilirubin encephalopathy , describes the chronic, toxic, permanent sequelae of high levels of unconjugated bilirubin on the central nervous system of infants. It is part of the spectrum of bilirubin-induced neurologic dysfunction , which also includes acute bilirubin encephalopathy. Kernicterus is thought to be very rare and decreasing in incidence, although the exact incidence is unknown 1,2. Kernicterus is clinically characterized by chronic and permanent neurological manifestations in the infant, including 1 :. Nearly all affected infants will have clinical features of acute bilirubin encephalopathy , such as jaundice , somnolence, hypertonia, opisthotonos, and retrocollis, prior to manifestation of these permanent neurological signs 1.
Kernicterus is a bilirubin -induced brain dysfunction. Bilirubin is a naturally occurring substance in the body of humans and many other animals, but it is neurotoxic when its concentration in the blood is too high, a condition known as hyperbilirubinemia. Hyperbilirubinemia may cause bilirubin to accumulate in the grey matter of the central nervous system , potentially causing irreversible neurological damage.