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Fundamentals of Phototherapy for Neonatal Jaundice

Stokowski, Laura A. MS, RN

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0b013e31822ee62c
Foundations in Newborn Care

Phototherapy is the use of visible light for the treatment of hyperbilirubinemia in the newborn. This relatively common therapy lowers the serum bilirubin level by transforming bilirubin into water-soluble isomers that can be eliminated without conjugation in the liver. The dose of phototherapy is a key factor in how quickly it works; dose in turn is determined by the wavelength of the light, the intensity of the light (irradiance), the distance between the light and the baby, and the body surface area exposed to the light. Commercially available phototherapy systems include those that deliver light via fluorescent bulbs, halogen quartz lamps, light-emitting diodes, and fiberoptic mattresses. Proper nursing care enhances the effectiveness of phototherapy and minimizes complications. Caregiver responsibilities include ensuring effective irradiance delivery, maximizing skin exposure, providing eye protection and eye care, careful attention to thermoregulation, maintaining adequate hydration, promoting elimination, and supporting parent-infant interaction.

Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, Falls Church, Virginia.

Correspondence: Laura A. Stokowski, MS, RN, 8317 Argent Circle, Fairfax Station, VA 22039 (

© 2011 National Association of Neonatal Nurses