Advantages and Disadvantages of Phototherapy (PT) in Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia



Phototherapy (PT) with white (day-light) or monochromatic (blue light) lamps is widely used for the prevention and treatment of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia. PT has the following advantages: it is inexpensive and easy to use; the breakdown products of bilirubin are not toxic for the CNS and are rapidly eliminated through the kidneys and liver; it is the most effective of all modes of prevention and treatment of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, with the exception of exchange-transfusion. Despite the above mentioned advantages, there is still some reluctance in the use of PT for fear of unknown immediate and/or long term side effects. Immediate side effects described in newborn infants include: decreased intestinal transit time, with loose, greenish stools; increased insensible water loss with slow weight gain; skin rashes and, rarely, a brownish discoloration of skin, urines and plasma. Other possible side effects, described in vitro and/or in experimental animals, include: retinal damage; liver cell damage; alterations of the pineal gland with modifications of serotonin metabolism; suppression of cyrcadian rithms; modifications of hormonal secretion and plasma levels; acceleration or delay in sexual maturation; photoxidation of structures or substances in the body, other than bilirubin (i.e. vitamines, aminoacids, albumin, red blood cells, etc.). Further studies are needed in order to exclude, some of the above mentioned side effects. Meanwhile PT, when indicated, should be used with caution and under well controlled circumstances.


Newborn Infant Pineal Gland Serum Bilirubin Level Neonatal Jaundice Intense Light 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Univ. of Naples, 2nd Med. Sch.NaplesItaly

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