Bilirubin is a yellowish substance present in bile. This substance is produced by the liver in the process of breaking down of old cells. Bilirubin is a waste product of this process. Higher levels of bilirubin can cause jaundice which if remains untreated can cause kernicterus which is a serious brain injury. Kernicterus can cause permanent disabilities such as loss of hearing or cerebral palsy. It can also prove fatal if left untreated. Jaundice is very common in new born babies. Levels of bilirubin are checked in new born babies with the help of the bilirubin test and a neonatal plasma bilirubin chart. The bilirubin test is done in order to check the amount of bilirubin in the blood of new born babies. The levels of bilirubin in the blood are kept track of with the help of a bilirubin chart. The bilirubin chart is a graph which measures the levels of bilirubin in the blood of a new born on an hourly basis.
The levels of bilirubin in the blood can help in finding out the functioning of the liver and to check for diseases of the liver such as hepatitis or cirrhosis. This test helps in finding out if there is any blockage in the bile ducts which can happen due to gallstones or tumors of the pancreas. It helps diagnose conditions causing increased destruction of red blood cells such as hemolytic anemia or hemolytic disease in new born babies. Decisions regarding neonatal jaundice in newborns can be taken with the help of this test. Doctors can decide if the neonatal jaundice needs treatment with the help of the findings of this test and with the help of the bilirubin chart.
There is no need of preparation for the bilirubin test for newborns. However for adults it is advised not to eat for 4 hours before the test. It is important to inform the doctor if you are on any kind of medication or are allergic to any sort of medication. Keep the doctor informed of any bleeding problems or intake of blood thinners. It is also very important to inform the doctor if you are pregnant.
There are two ways to conduct this test. Blood sample can be taken from a vein or a heel stick. Blood sample for babies is taken only from a heel stick. Skin of the heel is first cleaned and then punctured with a sterile lancet. Once enough blood is collected the site is covered is covered with a cotton gauze and applied pressure on to stop the bleeding.