Management of hyperbilirubinemia and prevention of kernicterus in 20 patients with Crigler-Najjar disease

We summarize the treatment of 20 patients with Crigler-Najjar disease (CND) managed at one center from 1989 to 2005 (200 patient-years). Diagnosis was confirmed by sequencing the UGTA1A gene. Nineteen patients had a severe (type 1) phenotype. Major treatment goals were to maintain the bilirubin to albumin concentration ratio at <0.5 in neonates and <0.7 in older children and adults, to avoid drugs known to displace bilirubin from albumin, and to manage temporary exacerbations of hyperbilirubinemia caused by illness or gallstones. A variety of phototherapy systems provided high irradiance over a large body surface. Mean total bilirubin for the group was 16+/-5 mg/dl and increased with age by approximately 0.8 mg/dl per year. The molar ratio of bilirubin to albumin ranged from 0.17 to 0.75 (mean: 0.44). The overall non-surgical hospitalization rate was 0.12 hospitalizations per patient per year; one-half of these were for neonatal hyperbilirubinemia and the remainder were for infectious illnesses. Ten patients (50%) underwent elective laproscopic cholecystectomy for cholelithiasis. No patient required invasive bilirubin removal or developed bilirubin-induced neurological damage under our care. Visual acuity and color discrimination did not differ between CND patients and age-matched sibling controls. Four patients treated with orthotopic liver transplantation were effectively cured of CND, although one suffered significant transplant-related complications.Conclusions. While patients await liver transplantation for CND, hyperbilirubinemia can be managed safely and effectively to prevent kernicterus. Lessons learned from CND can be applied to screening and therapy of non-hemolytic jaundice in otherwise healthy newborns.