Hemolytic disease of the newborn (patient information)
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Hemolytic disease of the newborn
Hemolytic disease of the newborn On the Web
Erythroblastosis fetalis is a potentially life-threatening blood disorder in a fetus or newborn infant. This article provides a general overview.
What are the symptoms of Hemolytic disease of the newborn?
Symptoms in a newborn baby may include:
- Edema (swelling under the surface of the skin)
- Enlarged liver or spleen
- Hydrops (fluid throughout the body's tissues, including in the spaces containing the lungs, heart, and abdominal organs)
- Newborn jaundice
What causes Hemolytic disease of the newborn?
- Erythroblastosis fetalis develops in an unborn infant when the mother and baby have different blood types. The mother produces substances called antibodies that attack the developing baby's red blood cells.
- The most common form of erythroblastosis fetalis is ABO incompatibility, which can vary in severity.
- The less common form is called Rh incompatibility, which can cause very severe anemia in the baby.
Specific tests depend on the type of erythroblastosis, but may include:
- Complete blood count
- Bilirubin level
- Blood typing
- After birth, depending on the severity, a transfusion usually needs to be performed.
- For specific treatment information, see:
Where to find medical care for Hemolytic disease of the newborn?
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
The severity of this condition can vary widely.
- In some instances, the baby has no symptoms of the disease.
- In other cases, it can lead to death of the baby before or shortly after birth.
- It can be treated before birth by intrauterine transfusion.
Complications depend on the specific type of erythroblastosis fetalis.
- The most severe form of this disease, Rh incompatibility, can be prevented if the mother takes a medicine called RhoGAM at certain times during and after pregnancy.
- If you have had a baby with this disease, be sure to talk with your doctor if you plan on having another baby.