To estimate the effect of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia on long-term cognitive ability in full-term newborns with a negative Coombs test, we performed a 17-year historical prospective study of 1948 subjects. Intelligence tests and medical examinations performed at the military draft board were stratified according to serum bilirubin concentration. A logistic regression analysis was used to adjust for the confounding effects of gestational age, birth weight, Apgar score, ethnic origin, socioeconomic class, paternal education, birth order, and the administration of phototherapy and exchange transfusion. No direct linear association was shown between neonatal bilirubin levels and intelligence test scores or school achievement at 17 years of age. However, the risk for low intelligence test scores (IQ score <85) was found to be significantly higher (P = .014) among full-term male subjects with serum bilirubin levels above 342 µmol/L (20 mg/dL) (odds ratio, 2.96; 95% confidence interval, 1.29-6.79). This association was not observed among female subjects. We conclude that severe neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, among full-term male newborns with a negative Coombs test, could be associated with lower IQ scores at 17 years of age.
- Received October 15, 1990.
- Accepted January 28, 1991.
- Copyright © 1991 by the American Academy of Pediatrics