Objective: To quantify the risk that transcutaneous bilirubin (TcB) screening would fail to recommend phototherapy for a neonate who would have qualified for it if total serum bilirubin (TSB) screening were used.
Study design: We conducted a quality improvement project where simultaneous TcB and TSB were obtained on neonates ≥35 weeks of gestation during birth hospitalizations in our hospital system. Using our Utah bilirubin management algorithm, we quantified the risk that TcB screening would fail to identify the need for a confirmatory TSB when TSB screening alone would have revealed that phototherapy was indicated.
Results: In 3 hospitals, we obtained 727 paired TcB/TSB measurements. Two instances utilized a blood gas radiometer for TSB, and 725 utilized the clinical laboratory-based TSB method. One of the 727 instances had a TcB indicating NO PHOTOTHERAPY, when the simultaneous TSB indicated PHOTOTHERAPY NEEDED. The TSB from that instance was 1 of the 2 from the blood gas radiometer. We estimate the risk of such an error occurring is 1.4 per 1000 TcB measurements (95% CI 0.03-7.6 per 1000). When only the laboratory TSB is used, we estimate the risk of such an error occurring to be 0 per 1000 TcB measurements (95% CI 0.0-5.1 per 1000).
Conclusions: Using TcB for screening at the birth hospital can identify those qualifying for phototherapy, using the Utah guidelines, with 1 of 727 neonates with a blood gas bilirubin and none of 725 with a laboratory-based analysis misidentified as not needing phototherapy when by TSB they did.